Lara's Reviews > The Historian

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
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's review
Mar 22, 2008

really liked it
Read in March, 2008

This book reminded me of the DaVinci code in some ways, but was much more interesting and better written. All of the research and historical documents were fascinating. I was especially interested in the subject matter, because it was about Vlad Ţepeş, the Wallachian (Romanian) prince, who Bram Stoker popularized as Dracula. (Not because I'm interested in vampires, but because I served my mission in Romania and was interested in Vlad himself. Evil and terrible as he was, the Romanians actually are very proud of him because he saved their country from the Turks. They do not like it at all that he is construed to be Dracula. His father was called Vlad Dracul, which is where that name comes from. Dracul is the Romanian word for the dragon.)

The Historian goes with the belief that he is definitely a Vampire, and that he is still alive. Or "undead" as it were. There are three different stories weaved together into one about three people who are trying to find Dracula: The narrator, who is telling her story from her viewpoint as a 16 year old girl in 1972, her father, whose story is told through letters to his daughter as well as conversations about his experiences in 1954 and finally, Professor Rossi, who was the father's advisor in college. Rossi's story is also told through letters and conversations and occurred in 1931. Every once in a while it is difficult to figure out which story you are reading as they jump around so much, but after the first few chapters you start to get a feel for it and it seemed really ingenious the way she chose to combine the three stories.

I loved reading so much about the history of Eastern Europe during the rule of the Ottomans as well as during Communist times. I don't know how much of it is actually based in fact, as that line blurs when we talk of vampirism and Vlad Ţepeş, but I know much of it was. The author is obviously an excellent researcher and really knew her stuff.

I was slightly annoyed by the fact that the Romanian language wasn't always written accurately (I guess she didn't research that quite enough). It was almost always missing diacritical markings, except for in place names. Her Hungarian seemed to have all the diacritical markings in it, and I am unsure of the Bulgarian, since she used our alphabet rather than cyrillic. So I was just bugged by that, although I know most people wouldn't even care! :)

It also bothered me that we never know the name of the narrator. Her father never refers to her by name, and neither does anyone else it seems. We know she was named for "Helen's mother" but "Helen's mother" is another character whose name we never actually hear. I don't know why this bothered me so much, but it did. I guess we get to make up her name, and since we know it was Romanian, I choose Anca. :)

The epilogue was a little unsettling, and the final resolution of the story seems comical when I think about it now, but it was completely fitting and totally acceptable in the framework of the story. I did have to chuckle every time I read the phrase "evil librarian."

It is not a quick read...took me nearly a week to get through, but definitely enjoyable. Kostova has a lovely, almost Victorian style of writing. Very descriptive. The book also scared me out of my wits at times. Really good though. Loved it, despite all my above annoyances.
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07/09 marked as: read

Comments <span class="smallText"> (showing 1-11 of 11) </span> <span class="smallText">(11 new)</span>

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message 1: by Alexana (new)

Alexana I'm so glad you read this book and enjoyed it! I absolutely loved it! I was also frustrated by the mysterious narrator-name thing! More than that I wanted to know the name of Helen's mother.
I had several creepy vampire dreams while I read this book and then I went to Istanbul with my dad and got an awesome, kinda eery, feel for the events in the book!

Rachel Oooh, it looks good. I think I'll check it out!

Wendy OMG, you have to be kidding! At least something HAPPENS in DaVinci. This was the most boring thing I have ever forced myself to get through.

Lara I'm sorry you didn't like the book, but there is no need to tell me that I shouldn't have. I enjoyed the history, and I did think it was a much better book than DaVinci. We're all entitled to our opinions, that just happens to be mine.

Wendy I apologize, that was wrong of me. I really wasn't trying to be ugly, just surprised at the comparison is all. I'll be more careful in the future!

Lara No problem! It always fascinates me, too, how many vastly differing opinions there are when it comes to reading material. I think it's great, every author will have a following. :)

Meghan I feel like this was an advanced Dan brown. Like Dan brown is for dummies kinda thing. Not to say that Dan Brown is for dummies but I call his books a literary snack compared to this which is a literary feast. And I'm not surprised there are so many bad reviews of it, but as a history buff, I loved it!

Shaun Joyce Shouldn't the DaVini Code remind you of this book since this one is older... And not the other way around? Haha :)

Lara Except I didn't read them in order. :)

Tone Iren I'm listening to an audio book of The Historian right now, and that solves the challenge of knowing whose story is being told at any given time; since the different parts are being read by different actors. Very happy with the recording. :)

Vicki Lanzo I really enjoyed this book, I just like to let go and be immersed in the story so a book would have to be pretty bad for me to have a hard time with that. Despite all its faults I was completely enveloped by this book to the point where I had a couple bad dreams about it! lol

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