Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Historian


The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.

I picked this one up at the suggestion of Chris from Stuff As Dreams Are Made On. He reviewed it last week, and really how could I not look for it at the next trip to the library? Anyway, this rather long novel is quite good. I won't say it's the best thing I've read for the R.I.P. II Challenge, it would be hard to match The Thirteenth Tale or Dracula. But it was good. Like most novels over six-hundred pages, it has a complicated and twisted plot. The story is told through many narrators, and the "action" occurs across several decades. Primarily, the story is of a Professor Rossi in the thirties, of Helen and Paul in the fifties, and of the primary narrator (I can't recall if she's ever named), the daughter of Paul and Helen, in the seventies. Of course these characters' lives intersect at many, many points. And other characters play significant roles in the unfolding drama. The premise of the novel is simple: vampires are real; Dracula is an active threat to humanity. A series of men (and women) "discover" a book with a dragon in the centerpiece. A mysteriously "old" and unusual book. The bravest of these follow sets of clues to discover the vampire threat. Who is leaving this book where it can be found? Who is leaving the clues? Who is manipulating the drama? Well, I'll leave that for you to figure out. It is a mystery, a puzzle, a race. Can "good" finally overcome "evil" for good? Can this dangerous threat finally be wiped off the face of the earth? The "heroes" in this book are ordinary men and women. Librarians. Scholars. Graduate students. Professors. Not your typical sort to go on quests around the globe. The action happens in libraries, rare book vaults, and monasteries. Overall, I enjoyed it a great deal. I liked some parts better than others. Some times the pacing was great, other times I wished it would go faster or slower. Some details I thought were a bit much, others I thought weren't detailed enough. But generally, I liked it. I read it in two days.

13 comments:

Cath 2:38 PM  

I just finished this one too so it's interesting to read your excellent review. I liked the book a lot but yes, I agree, the pacing was a bit unpredictable. We never did find out the narrator's name did we? I thought that was very odd and spent all my time wondering if her and her father would turn out to be something to do with one of the *gang* from Dracula. *g*

The Thirteenth Tale must be pretty good so I really must get hold of a copy.

chrisa511 3:02 PM  

You read this in 2 days?! I need to take reading lessons from you! I'm glad you liked it. I definitely agree that it doesn't match Dracula, but I thought that it was a decent modern comparison. I had an issue with not knowing the narrator's name as well. I would've liked to get to know her a little bit better than we did. She did tell us that she was named after Helen's mother, but I don't recall if we ever learned Helen's mother's name. I also liked that the heroes of the book were scholars and librarians :) That was a nice touch. Looking forward to The Thirteenth Tale! That's next up after Heart-Shaped Box which I'm currently reading.

Becky 3:50 PM  

I'm glad I'm not the only one who wanted to know more about the narrator. I feel we get so much more details on her parents and other characters than on the narrator herself.

I do read quickly. I "accidentally" read from page 50 to 410 in almost one sitting. I lost complete track of time. And I missed quite a few hours of sleep.

I hope you enjoy Thirteenth Tale, Chris. It is really, really good :)

Anonymous,  8:15 PM  

I finished my copy a while ago, and indeed, it was rather draggy. I nearly couldn't finish it!

alisonwonderland 10:38 AM  

great review! i've got both The Historian and The Thirteenth Tale on my RIP list - and i know i won't be able to read either one in two days so i better get going, huh?

Framed 10:30 PM  

It took me a week to read this. It really is a bit too long. But I liked it better than Dracula which I liked a lot. I thought Kostovo wrote a beautiful atmosphere of meance in her book. Great R.I.P read.

Literary Feline 11:37 AM  

I am glad you enjoyed The Historian, Becky. I read this one last year and it was among my favorites of the year. I was completely mesmerized by the story. Despite the length, I hated for it to end.

Court 3:43 PM  

You seriously read this book in 2 days?? I am completely in awe of you - it took me two weeks to read it! Happy to hear you enjoyed it. I also read it for the RIP challenge - it seems a lot of people are reading it lately.

Becky 4:54 PM  

It was a busy two days. I mostly read. But I was so *involved* for the most part that I just couldn't help it.

Anonymous,  3:43 PM  

Oh, to be able to finish a book that size it two days...with two little ones running around at my feet that is virtually impossible. Luckily I am half way through The Historian for RIP II and am thoroughly enjoying it.
Stephanie
thewrittenword.wordpress.com

Anonymous,  11:54 AM  

An interesting premise... perhaps at some point I'll locate a copy.

Dewey 1:18 PM  

I read this about a year ago (in other words, pre-blog). My lingering impression is that I got all cozy and settled into the story for about 2/3 of the book and then I skimmed to find out... well, you know.

Anonymous,  2:31 AM  

I have received it as a gift and can't wait to read it!!

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