Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

y
Pages - 704
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.

21 comments:

  1. I liked this one when I read it. I still haven't read her newest Swan Thieves though.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You describe it perfectly Vivienne - I loved this book. I also haven't read Dracula yet - strange that! I may just join you on All Hallows Eve ;)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Diane - I have heard mixed reviews about The Swan Thieves, which makes me reluctant to read it.

    Carmen - I didn't realise you had read it too. Shall we stay up late and scare ourselves silly on All Hallows Eve!

    ReplyDelete
  4. A book that has been on my tbr pile for long enough, now is the time for me to actually buy it. Thanks for the push Vivienne.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wasn't this book fantastic?? I'm so glad you loved it, Vivienne! And I was the same way--I'd find myself holding my breath while I was reading it. :) It was the perfect mixture of frightening and fascinating. I was constantly getting up and running to the computer to look up more information about Vlad the Impaler. I loved reading your thoughts!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I've been meaning to read this for a long time now - I think it's even sitting in my bookshelves somewhere - must get on that!!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I remember reading this and not being able to put it down, there was just something enchanting about it

    ReplyDelete
  8. A story within a story within a story--wow! Although I am not a huge fan of Vampire novels, this one encompasses much more and actually sounds really good to me. Wonderful review, Vivienne!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi Viv, after reading your review, I regretted not taking the book along with me to my apartment in Penang. I have noted down in my little notebook (which is actually my iPhone) to remember to bring it back with me the next time I go home to visit my family in Kuala Lumpur. Thanks for the review!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Petty Witter - I hope you enjoy it.

    Trish - LOL, I am glad I am not the only one interested in Vlad the Impaler. My hubby thought I had gone weird.

    Jen - go for it.

    Blodeuedd - most definitely.

    Suko - this is definitely not your run of the mill vampire story, this one really has depth and historical interest.

    Alice - such a shame you didn't take it with you. You will love it.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I enjoyed this when I read it, but I find it hasn't stayed with me quite as much as I thought it would for some reason. I'm glad you liked it so much, Vivienne!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I'm glad you liked this so much since I'm a fan of Kostova!

    ReplyDelete
  13. If I ever was going to read something vampirish it would probably be a story like this.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Somehow, because of the involvement of vampires, I have always been hesitant to read this. Even if I love the YA books about them. Weird. I am glad that you loved it so much, it makes me think I need to overcome my prejudice.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I definitely didn't love this as much as you did. Maybe I'm just not as much of a vampire-ophile. Anyway, you're right about how this book offers so much in terms of historical information. I just couldn't differentiate between what was true and what was fantasy, so that I tended to throw out the baby with the bath water, so to speak.

    ReplyDelete
  16. You know this book has been sitting on my bookshelf for a few years now. I really must read it. I'm glad you enjoyed it so much - makes me eager to delve into it.

    ReplyDelete
  17. This one sounds great. Very cool that Dracula's story was in there.

    http://thebookworm07.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  18. Thanks for the lovely review, Vivienne!

    I am sorry that I haven't managed to visit your blog (and other blogs) lately, but I was busy.

    I hope to be back soon and then I will be able to come more often and read your great reviews.

    To 'The Historian' - I often thought about reading it, but as I am originally from Romania/Transilvania and as I know the read story of Vlad Tepes, I am a little hesistant when it comes to Dracula stories. But I must admit that your review made me curious about this book, and so I added it to my wish list.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts with us!

    ReplyDelete
  19. It is funny because this book has always sounded like something right up my alley, and when I tried reading it some years ago, I had to admit that I plain hated it from almost page one, and never got more than 30-40 pages into it before I had to quit with a disgusted sigh. Friends with book taste I fully trust, loved this one to pieces, but I just could not get into it!

    ReplyDelete
  20. I have not read this book but reading your review makes me want to rush out and get it. I think I'll be adding it to my TBR list.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I'm reading Dracula right now (can you believe I've never read it before?) and absolutely adore it. It's so darn spooky. I have this one on my shelf and cannot wait to sink my teeth in it. Heh.

    ReplyDelete

Hiya, thanks for stopping by, it is always nice to hear what you have to say, so do leave a comment if you have time.