Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Published in 2005. 642 pages.

My friend Kellie recommended The Historian to me over a year ago, but I was somewhat intimidated by the length of the book and kept putting it off. I ended up putting it on both on my "second-tier" list for the "Something About Me" challenge and on my R.I.P. II Challenge list though, so I decided October was the time to read it! I got a good start on it during the 24-Hour Read-a-Thon - and I finished it last night.

Genre of the book: Horror. (Yes, that is not a typical genre for me! If it isn't for you either, don't let that keep you from giving it a read.)

How the book starts: The first pages are "A Note to the Reader" from an unnamed woman who is the narrator of the book. The note is dated January 15, 2008, and the narrator makes reference to "the thirty-six years since these event transpired" and to the idea that what she writes is "a cri de coeur" (which means, according to Merriam-Webster, "a passionate outcry [as of appeal or protest]").

A summary of the three layers of the book's plot: In 1972, the unnamed woman, then sixteen years old, travels in Europe with her father and learns much about his past. In the 1950s, the father, Paul, then a graduate student, searches in Europe for his mentor, who may or may not have been kidnapped. In the 1930s, the mentor, Professor Bartholomew Rossi travels in search of information about Vlad Ţepeş (also known as Dracula).

What I thought about the ending (without giving it away): The ending was actually somewhat anticlimatic for me, after so much action and revelations occuring thoughout the book.

What I think about vampires: I have not had an interest in reading about vampires in the past. Anne Rice, for instance, has never appealed to me - and I haven't read any of her books. Neither have I read Bram Stoker's Dracula. (I did read James Patterson's Violets are Blue, but that was because it is part of the Alex Cross series. The presence of vampires neither encouraged me nor discouraged me from reading the book.) I did read the first three books in Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series this summer though - which changed the way I feel about vampires, at least the "vegetarian" ones of Meyer's tales. The Historian has given me more of the historical perspective on vampire lore, which I found intriguing.

Additional thoughts about this book: There has apparently been some comparison of The Historian with The Da Vinci Code, which was published two years earlier. Personally, I think there is no comparison! While I enjoyed The Da Vinci Code, I found the writing of The Historian to be far superior, the research to be more solid, and its plot to be more compelling. Because Kostova wrote the book over a ten year period, she obviously didn't borrow her concept from The Da Vinci Code. I think that The Historian is an amazing book! Sony reportedly has the movie rights, and I think there are the makings of a great film in this book - if they don't ruin it in the process.

For more information: There is a fun interview with Kostova from 2005 here.



  1. I really liked the ending, but I think that's because I know and love the end setting, the Rosenbach museum and library in Philadelphia. What a wonderful place!

  2. I loved this book, glad to see you liked it too! I read it about a year ago so I don't remember details, but part of me thinks I felt the same way about the ending.

  3. Here's hoping they do a good job with the movie translation! I should really read this one at some point.

  4. I'm glad you liked it, I really enjoyed it and it's MUCH better than the da Vinci code.
    Hope the movie is good

  5. Thanks for posting your review. I started this months ago, and I'm about 2/3 done, but put it aside since all the backstory was just tiring me out. I've found it compelling in parts, and a tough slog in other places, and I've been looking for motivation to finish it..this may help.

  6. Thanks for the review, I have this on my TBR pile. I need to read 12 more books by the new year to meet my goal!

  7. I have not read this book, but I am now interested in it after reading your input. Great share

  8. The length of this has had me intimidated as well. I did finally buy it for my daughter, and I really do hope to get to it someday...

  9. I have to tell you how impressed I am with you and your dedication to reading, Al.

    Although I read quite a bit, you inspire me to do more. And you give me great recommendations too. Please keep it up.

    What a neat little questionnaire to follow up with.

  10. I liked Historian very much. And horror is not "my" genre at all. However somehow I had time for reading ONLY during the night and the effect was amazing. I remember once around 3am while reading the novel (completely alone in the apartment) I started turning my head slowly to see who is standing behind my back. And in the half way I realized what I'm doing and ... wow it was quite spooky!

    So ever since, I'm recommending this book (or sharing my own copy) I'm advising people to read it during the night. It seems autumn/winter might be perfect time since the days are shorter.

    Cheers from Serbia!

    PS I'm using my blogger account since otherwise it wouldn't be possible to post a comment. However if you'd like to check my current blog there you'll find a link :)

  11. I enjoyed this book, but it took me forever to read! If I had had my blog back when I read it, I would have been despairing over how long I had gone without any reviews. :)

    By the way, the literal translation is "cry of the heart" which I think is so much prettier than "passionate outcry!"

  12. hmm..its funny, I was kind of ambivalent about this one; I totally agree with you about the writing tho (Dan Brown - while entertaining in his own right - is no Kostova, when it comes to prose!) AND about the ending!

    Glad you enjoyed it!