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The Historian

Elizabeth Kostova

Average Review Rating Average Rating 8/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Little Brown

Published : 2005

Copyright : Elizabeth Kostova 2005

ISBN-10 : HB 0-316-73031-9
ISBN-13 : HB 978-0-316-73031-0

Publisher's Write-Up

Late one night, exploring her father's library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters addressed ominously to 'My dear and unfortunate successor'. Her discovery plunges her into a world she never dreamed of - a labyrinth where the secrets of her father's past and her mother's mysterious fate connect to an evil hidden in the depths of history.

In those few quiet moments, she unwittingly assumes a quest she will discover is her birthright - a hunt for the truth about Vlad the Impaler, the medieval ruler whose barbarous reign formed the basis of the Dracula myth. Deciphering obscure signs and hidden texts, reading codes worked into the fabric of medieval monastic traditions, and evading terrifying adversaries, one woman comes ever closer to the secret of her own past and a confrontation with the very definition of evil. Elizabeth Kostova's debut novel is an adventure of monumental proportions - a captivating tale that blends fact and fantasy, history and the present with an assurance that is almost unbearably suspenseful - and utterly unforgettable.

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Chrissi (010705) Rating (8/10)

Review by Chrissi
Rating 8/10
Imagine receiving an ancient book. I say receiving, because no-one actually gives it to you, but it comes to you in such a way that it is meant to belong to you. But it appears empty, except for a woodcut image of a dragon in its vellum centre, and the word Drakulya printed in medieval gothic script. Would that be enough to pique your curiosity? It probably would mine, and I know little of the legends of Dracula, barring that I have learned from Bram Stoker, Anne Rice and Leslie Nielsen.

This is one of those books that you cannot delve in and out of – it is atmospheric, evocative of the many places, (mainly seeming very exotic to a western european like me) to which our investigators travel in the quest upon which they have embarked following their receipt of the ancient books. (Oh, yes, there is more than one, although how you receive one is a mystery.)

The Historian of the title is a play on words, it is not just the nature of the person in their search for Dracula, but also of their own personal history, and this quest travels back and forth through time, unfolding the family circumstances of our authoress through stories told by her father, and through letters and documents written and transcribed into the narrative. By turns slow and meandering and then an unveiling lightbulb moment, the pace of the narrative allows a thorough exploration of the story at a pace chosen by the author.

This can be a tad frustrating at times, not in a boring, interminable sense but because you feel the need to get along, and the urgency with which the characters are wishing to proceed in their quest. The detail provided is amazing, the descriptions intricate and evocative. They almost seduce you into the story, intriguing and bewitching your intellect as if you could immerse yourself in the book.

This is one of those beautifully researched stories that appeals to those of us who appreciate such things. I really have no clue as to the languages of the Bulgarians and no knowledge of the history (or whereabouts) of Wallachia, but the effort that has gone into making the narrative a complete - and for the reader – absorbing experience has to be admired.

It is not a book that you would wish to take to a beach – it requires a deal more concentration than that, but rather like Joanne Harris’ Chocolat, the impression that it leaves is multi-faceted, with a sense of having travelled to distant and strange places in the comfort of your own imagination.

Having come to the end, I am a bit forlorn. I don’t know if I liked the ending or not. It is not an extravaganza of pyrotechnics or action, but it was cathartic, although following the main ending, I am unsure whether it has really truly finished. If this is the case, then should there be another story, I shall definitely read it. If not, then I shall enjoy the memory of this one. I really don’t mind – it has struck a chord somehow, and I can’t (don’t want to?) dissect it at the moment – like many things, scrutiny of any great detail can spoil the overall experience.
Chrissi (1st July 2005)

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