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If your pulse flutters at the thought of castle ruins and descents into crypts by moonlight, you will savor every creepy page of Elizabeth Kostova's long but beautifully structured thriller The Historian. The story opens in Amsterdam in 1972, when a teenage girl discovers a medieval book and a cache of yellowed letters in her diplomat father's library. The pages of the book are empty except for a woodcut of a dragon. The letters are addressed to: "My dear and unfortunate successor." When the girl confronts her father, he reluctantly confesses an unsettling story: his involvement, twenty years earlier, in a search for his graduate school mentor, who disappeared from his office only moments after confiding to Paul his certainty that Dracula--Vlad the Impaler, an inventively cruel ruler of Wallachia in the mid-15th century--was still alive. The story turns out to concern our narrator directly because Paul's collaborator in the search was a fellow student named Helen Rossi (the unacknowledged daughter of his mentor) and our narrator's long-dead mother, about whom she knows almost nothing. And then her father, leaving just a note, disappears also.
As well as numerous settings, both in and out of the East Bloc, Kostova has three basic story lines to keep straight--one from 1930, when Professor Bartolomew Rossi begins his dangerous research into Dracula, one from 1950, when Professor Rossi's student Paul takes up the scent, and the main narrative from 1972. The criss-crossing story lines mirror the political advances, retreats, triumphs, and losses that shaped Dracula's beleaguered homeland--sometimes with the Byzantines on top, sometimes the Ottomans, sometimes the rag-tag local tribes, or the Orthodox church, and sometimes a fresh conqueror like the Soviet Union.
Although the book is appropriately suspenseful and a delight to read--even the minor characters are distinctive and vividly seen--its most powerful moments are those that describe real horrors. Our narrator recalls that after reading descriptions of Vlad burning young boys or impaling "a large family," she tried to forget the words: "For all his attention to my historical education, my father had neglected to tell me this: history's terrible moments were real. I understand now, decades later, that he could never have told me. Only history itself can convince you of such a truth." The reader, although given a satisfying ending, gets a strong enough dose of European history to temper the usual comforts of the closing words. --Regina Marler
| AUTHOR: || Elizabeth Kostova |
| CATEGORY: || Book |
| MANUFACTURER: || Little, Brown and Company |
| ISBN: || 0316011770 |
| TYPE: || Horror - General, Suspense, General, American First Novelists, American Horror Fiction, Fiction, Fiction - Fantasy, Occult fiction, Horror, Horror fiction, Fantasy - Dark/Horror, Fiction / General, Vampires |
| MEDIA: || Hardcover |
| # OF MEDIA: || 1 |
Customer Review of The Historian
Sad to have finished this book.
I loved this novel and I'm extremely sad that I'm done reading it! I'm a Historical Fiction lover and this novel was pretty much written with my exact literary tastes in mind. This novel is not for every reader, but I'd beg you to find a book that will please the masses.
>For historical fiction buffs, lovers of mystery and intrigue, macabre seekers, and vampire enthusiasts... this is your novel!
Captivating story and writing style
I couldn't put this book down. I have recommended it and when people finally get around to reading it they are thrilled they did. The story is thrilling - kind of an intellectuals Da Vinci Code - the writing style is fantastic.
Great New Take On Dracula Story
The Historian is one whopper of a book, but it's worth every page and every word. It is the haunting tale of a young woman, a historian, who one day finds a book and some letters on the shelf of her father's library. The book is very old and is blank, except for a woodcut image in the middle of a dragon and the word "Drakulya". She asks her father about the book and the letters and Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian unfolds.
>Paul, the narrator's father who is also a historian, one day discovers the previously mentioned book and consults his dissertation adviser, Professor Rossi about it. He learns that his professor has also been "given" one of these mysterious books and has done some extensive research on it. Danger lies in the acquiring of these books. Rossi's research has taught him that Vlad Tepes, aka Vlad the Impaler, aka Dracula, still walks among us as a vampire. Shortly after revealing this to Paul, Rossi disappears. Paul digs deeper and deeper into the Dracula legend and history and begins to learn that there is more truth than myth to vampires. Along the way, he meets Helen, an anthropologist from Romania who is also interested in vampires and Dracula. Paul leaves America to find Rossi as he is convinced that the book leaves a clue as to his whereabouts and Helen joins him in his travels.
>The above paragraph has happened in the past, but takes up the majority of the book. It is told through a very long letter that the narrator's father has written her. The narrator herself is on her own hunt. She certainly has her own interest in the hunt for Dracula, but she is hunting for more knowledge on her father's mysterious past, and even more so, she is hunting for the mother that she never knew.
>The Historian hits all the right marks. It's written very well and has a very gothic feel to it. It was an extremely creepy book and the atmosphere was just perfect...old books left in dark places, empty libraries at night, old gothic buildings with people lurking in the shadows, and all of the scenes in Turkey, Hungary, and Romania were just perfect. In fact, I've never really considered wanting to visit any of these places until Kostova wrote about them and some of the amazing architecture, churches, cafes, and festivals in these countries.
>I loved Kostova's characters...or loved to hate some of them. Either way, she knows how to create an interesting character. The love story between Paul and Helen was remarkable and something that I cherished and enjoyed every time I got a peek at it. I wished that I could've spent a little more time with the narrator of the book, and that is one of my only criticisms of the novel...that I didn't get to know her better. The different characters that Paul and Helen meet along the way that help them in their journey were wonderful -Rossi, Turgut, and Stoichev were all classic old scholars whom I really enjoyed and would love to sit down with and have a cup of tea and study their libraries.
>For me, this novel was everything that a horror novel should be. The subject matter is certainly there - vampires, more specifically, the grand-daddy of all vampires, Dracula. There's a constant sense of foreboding, mystery, shadows lurking in the darkness, being a step away from a dark discovery. The best way to describe the book is that it is a modern gothic, mystery novel. Some may say that things fall into place a little too easily in this one...and at times they do, but it's fiction...and in fiction, that's just fine with me. Kostova has created a riveting novel that kept me up many nights because I just couldn't put it down. I can't wait to see what she does with the rest of her career!
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