Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

As described by Victoria A. Brownworth of the Baltimore Sun, The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova is "part thriller, party history, part romance." Told in alternating viewpoints, as well as letters and historical writings, the story spans several decades and involves 3 generations of a family. When Paul is a young graduate student and conducting research, a mysterious book with empty pages, except for one depicting a dragon, falls into his possession. When he asks his advisor, Professor Rossi, about this book, he begins to learn that this is not just any book, but someone or something wanted him to have this book, knowing he would be curious enough to try to find the source. Paul also learns, though he can't quite believe it, that Dracula is more than a legend, or a classic literary figure. Soon after, Professor Rossi disappears, and Paul knows he must try to find him, regardless of the danger. Thus begins his journey across Eastern Europe, where Paul and his new friend Helen travel to places he had only read about in history books. They don't know whom to trust, why Professor Rossi disappeared, or where this dangerous journey will lead them. The feeling that someone is following them keeps them constantly looking over their shoulder, and as they learn more about Vlad the Impaler, they realize how much danger they are in themselves.

Unlike Rebecca, which I also read for Carl's RIP III Challenge, The Historian was too frightening for me to read at night. I started reading it at about 2 am in the read-a-thon, but I had to keep putting it down because my imagination kept getting the better of me. Though the whole premise of the story seems unbelievable and almost ridiculous, the incredible writing of Kostova makes it seem real. She spent ten years doing research for this book, and that is very evident in all the detail within the story. I read the book over the course of a month, because I could only read it during the daytime, or when people were in the next room. Because of the fact that I would go days without reading it, I frequently confused the many characters within the story. I also felt that there was a bit too much history involved, and I found myself skimming over sections of history in order to get back to the story. However, for people who are not a scardy-cat like myself, and could read through this book without getting so freaked out, the characters and history probably would not present such a problem. And even though the story was frightening, I was so involved that I needed to keep reading to see how it would end.

Because it took me so long to finish, I finished the RIP III Challenge 2 weeks late. However, I am glad I did sign up for the challenge, because I greatly enjoyed both Rebecca and The Historian. I think I've had my fill of creepy for a while though! Maybe I'll be ready next year when the challenge rolls around again!

Date completed: November 14, 2008
# of pages: 676


Katherine said...

I enjoyed this book for the most part; Kostova is an excellent writer. But by the end all the vampire stuff got to be too much.

Nymeth said...

I actually enjoyed the history bits, but I've heard many others say that they got to be too much after a while, and I really understand why. I'm glad you enjoyed it despite that, though :)

Dar said...

Another one that I have sitting on my nightstand to read. I didn't read completely through but did see where you said it was really frightening-ok, I really like that. I hope to get to this one soon.

cj said...

I loved this one and agree Kostova writes beautiful and she's one of the few authors that has managed to make me jumpy while reading her book.

Glad you enjoyed it.


Laura said...

Katherine-by the end, I was ready to be finished as well, but I think that's because I read it so slowly! I haven't read any of the many vampire books out there right now, but I think this book was enough vampire stuff for a long time!

Nymeth-I did enjoy most of the history, but I started getting confused about some of it (Wikipedia helped a little :))

Dar-I'm sure you won't get freaked out nearly as much as I did, especially if you enjoy creepy stories!

CJ-It isn't difficult for me to get scared about a book or movie, but the story was so intriguing, that I couldn't stop reading!

Trish said...

I agree that Kostova does a wonderful job at making this book realistic and believable. I enjoyed the history aspects of it and actually found myself on wikipedia frequently to learn more. I nerd. :) Glad you liked this one--it's one that I'd like to re-read one day.

Literary Feline said...

Great review, Laura! I really liked The Historian. It so mesmerized me that I felt almost like I was walking in the book's glow even when not reading, if that makes sense.