Wednesday 13 October 2010
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Published in 2006 by Time Warner Books
My dear and unfortunate successor:
It is with regret that I imagine you, whoever you are, reading this account I put down here. The regret is partly for myself - because I will surely be at least in trouble, maybe dead, or perhaps worse, if this is in your hands. But my regret is also for you, my yet-unknown friend because only by someone who needs such file information will this letter someday be read. If you are not my successor in some other sense, you will soon be my heir - and I feel sorrow at bequeathing to another human being my own, perhaps unbelievable, experience of evil.
This story begins when a young girl finds an ancient book and a cache of letters hidden amongst her father's books in his library. This discovery takes her on a journey which unravels secrets from her father's past as well as the story of her mother's life and her fate.
What the book doesn't tell you from the cover is that this is really the story of Dracula/Vlad the Impaler and once I realised that I was lost within the story. When I recall this book, I consider it a story within a story within a story, as you begin reading at one layer, before being transported into another and then another. You begin with the author's story about finding a rare book in her father's library, which then moves you onto the stories of her father about his adventures trying to find his mentor Rossi. The book then progresses into the letters of Rossi and his attempts to discover the hiding place of Dracula.
This book is full of Gothic charm on the go, the adventure and the chase spilling out on either side as you ride the rollercoaster through the story. The book is a real chunkster at 704 pages, but you quickly get lost amongst the pages of the book and immersed in the history of Dracula/Vlad the Impaler. It is surprising that I didn't faint from asphyxiation as I kept holding my breath for long periods of time during the intensely dramatic chases. If I had to put this book in a genre, I would really struggle as it contains so many different elements from a range of genres. There is romance, adventure, myths and legend, as well as epistolary features.
This book took my love of vampires to a completely different level. In this book there is such an aura around the stories of Dracula and the vampire is seen as mythical and unreachable until he reveals himself near the end of the book. I loved walking along the fine line of truth and fiction within this book.
The character of Helen Rossi, annoyed me a little during the book. She was always so cold and aloof, that I couldn't possibly consider her to have mothered a child. Her personality never altered throughout the book and I would have liked to see her character soften as the story progressed.
I loved the story and loved learning more about the legend of Dracula/Vlad. In a morbid way, I have always found the stories quite fascinating and am intrigued to learn more. I hold my hands up and admit to never having read Bram Stoker's Dracula, which features heavily in this book, but I do plan to read it before the end of the year. Perhaps I should stay up on All Hallows Eve to read it with a couple of Jack O Lanterns grinning fiendishly at me whilst I read. Oooh I am getting the shivers.