Review: The Historian

Book: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Published: Time Warner Books, 2005
Available in paperback from Amazon.

I was excited to read this, having finally worked my way through my reading list to get to it. And it started off reasonably slowly, but I persevered. The middle was gripping, but then the book never seemed to end.

One night, a young woman finds a notebook and a pile of letters in her fathers library, and upon asking him, is drawn into a story of history colliding with the present, of Vlad the Impaler. Three generations search for the truth of Dracula, and it unwittingly becomes as much her quest as her father before her. Travelling across Europe searching, finding ancient texts and unravelling the mysteries present in medieval literature.
It is a take on the Dracula story, with Dracula having a particular taste for collecting historians and librarians, tricking them into researching him and then punishing them for it. It is written in the style of Bram Stoker, with one character being told the story in increments across several years and across several countries while travelling with her father. Then it descends into letters, letters, and more letters.

I do have to admit that the love story was excellently worked into the main plot, and the descriptions of the different countries were fantastic, but the actual story, of Professor Rossi and Helen and Dracula and the different people they met along the way, is extremely longwinded, and I got to the point where I was willing to give up. This was a practice in perseverance, my absolute stubbornness in finishing books I have started seeing me through to the end. It has taken me over a month to finish this book, which I think might be the longest reading time outside of academic textbooks I have ever clocked. And the end is hugely anticlimactic so I can’t decide if it was worth it.

Kudos to the author for the incredible amount of research that must have gone into creating this work of fiction. There are references to all sorts of libraries and texts that are well written and obviously well researched. But I have to admit I probably wouldn’t recommend except to English lit students doing a module in Gothic revival, or attempts thereof.

3 Comments

  1. I have such conflicted feelings about ‘The Historian’. On one hand, I really enjoyed the first half of the book, but on the other, it definitely began to drag at certain points. (Unrelated, but your cover seems different than mine. Was yours the paperback? I’m always fascinated when presses make changes like that.)

    Like

    1. I agree! There was a section in the middle where my housemate left me reading and returned four hours later and I was in the same place and over halfway through the book. Then it just seemed to stagnate a little!
      My copy is a paperback yes, I didn’t realise there was another cover! I got the picture from Amazon.

      Liked by 1 person

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