It has just occurred to me that I never made good on my promise to tell you about The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. I honestly thought I had already posted but apparently all my good intentions came to was an empty post in the Draft folder. Well, nevermind, now’s as good a time as any, right?
In fact, I think it’s a very good thing that it has taken me this long. You see, when I first finished this incredibly
long drawn-out detailed novel, I hated it. That is saying something. There are few books that I’ve read in my life that I’ve absolutely hated and will never open again (The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt being one, a painful lesson in Pretty Covers Do Not Equal Pretty Books or When Gorgeous Covers Happen to BAD Books, but I digress). With a bit of distance, I don’t hate the book, but I can’t say that I would easily recommend it.
The narration duty alternates between different characters as well as different time periods, which was the first bit I found to be challenging with this book. The three main narrators span three generations: a professor/mentor, his student, and later that student’s daughter. All of them become quite tangled up in the search for the real Vlad Dracul, or Dracula. The first two narrators (chronologically, in the actual text the narration bounces back and forth quite a bit among the three) are drawn into the search for Dracula by a book that appears in each of their lives. The third narrator takes up the mantle of her father’s search, both to find him when he disappears as well as to find out more about who he was and has become as a result of the search.
There are strange plot twists and loads of characters, and I have to say I was not at all satisfied with the end but I did not see it coming. I suppose that is one point in the favor of this tale: There were plot twists that I saw coming almost from the beginning, but the eventual wrap up of the story wasn’t one of them. There are loads of characters and relationships…it wasn’t quite the experience of Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches that actually required me to draw up a family tree to keep everyone straight, but it was close. I did learn a great deal about the world during the Cold War, as well as a great deal of vampire lore that I didn’t previously know. The author definitely did her homework and the facts that she is the daughter of a librarian and a university professor, is married to a Bulgarian scholar, and spent her formative years in Slovenia are all very apparent in her writing.
If you’re a fan of historical fiction, then by all means should you get a copy of The Historian and give it a read. If you’re a fan of modern vampire fiction, it may be a bit dry for you. But if you’re a vampire fiction buff and have enjoyed Anne Rice and others that wrote about vampires pre-Twilight et al, this may be the book for you. To be honest, I’m still not sure what I thought of it to the point that I might read it again, and that, I suppose, is the mark of a truly good book…or at the least an intriguing story idea.