Saturday, 17 January 2009

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova


Review from Amazon..

Some stories can be told again in endlessly different ways. Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian combines a search for the historical Dracula with a profound sense that Stoker got some things right--that the late Mediaeval tyrant kills among us yet, undead and dangerous. From Stoker, she also takes a sense that the supernatural seems more real when embedded in documentary evidence.

Three generations search for Dracula's resting place, and their stories are nested within each other, so that we know that at least two quests ended badly. Kostova rations her thrills very carefully so that we jump out of our chair at quite slight surprises, especially when we have come to expect buckets of blood and loud bangs. She also has a profound and well-communicated sense of place and period, so that the book is equally at home in 1930s Rumania, Cold War Budapest and 1970s Oxford. Kostova is particularly good on the sights and sounds of remote country places and the taste of real peasant food--this sensuous realism does not always go with her other skill, the creation of imagined documents and folksongs that feel as real and true as what might be actual.

This is a quietly good book rather than a spectacular d├ębut, with some uncomfortable twists in its tail; her heroine-narrators are, and perhaps remain, in the most serious of jeopardies.

Okay, now my review...

As I'm one for vampire stories since accidentally stumbling on Twilight - though they're very different styles - I asked for The Historian for Christmas. And now, after a hell of a long time, I've read it.
Set back a few decades, the Historian's language and the vast amount of description was hard to understand at times; hard facts were being thrown at you constantly in a way that began to get tiring after hearing "Vlad Dracula fought in blablabla in 1469" for the sixth time, especially as I was reading at night.
The story is told in three parts - by the daughter whose name I have either forgotten or was never told, Professor Rossi's letters and then by the girl's father, partially through her reading his letters, and partially through him telling her the stories while they're on holiday.
People were constantly disappearing during the novel, whether it be in stories or in the narrator's present time. I found myself becoming interested more in the budding romances than the 'constant threat of Dracula', even though this was the centre theme of the book. I did, however, enjoy anticipating the actions of Dracula's minions, even though Dracula himself was a long time coming!
It might have been the fact I was reading by night, but I became easily bored and aggravated by the twisting, yet often predictable plot. By the middle of the book, the only reason I wasn't putting it down was so that I could put it on my 50 books list.
The end of the story made up for the rest's disappointment. For once, I was actually surprised, and I was pretty pleased with the ending...until the epilogue. Which was confusing, and left me very irritated because SHE DOESN'T EXPLAIN WHAT THE HELL IS IN THE CORNER OF THE DAMN BOOK.
Yes,'s a book to read, but I won't rave about it. Not a bit.

I'm reading Dan Brown's Angels and Demons next, hopefully that'll be a bit better!

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