Martha's Reviews > The Historian

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
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did not like it
Recommended for: compulsive letter writers and dull historians

This has got to be one of the most disappointing books I've read in a long time. Although the descriptions of the various eastern European cities are often pretty and atmospheric, my frustration with this book won't let me mark it above one star.

It starts out well; very interesting and suspenseful for about the first 100 pages or so. But as you read it, the book just gets more and more ridiculous. It's about 600 900(!) pages long (which is way, way too long) and I urge anyone reading this book to just put it down or read one of the one-star spoiler reviews on Amazon and be done with it. Or better yet, ignore the book entirely.

What bothered me most? I'll try to make a list of my top issues:

-- Coincidences. *Everything* in this book happens by some remarkable coincidences. One here or there would be fine, even interesting, but it's as if the author decided 'here's how the plot should go', and couldn't be bothered to come up with realistic reasons for characters to do things and just wanted to move them from one point to another. One of the characters even ends up with amnesia. Amnesia! Like from a bad soap opera! I mean, are you kidding? So stuff just happens. For no reason. Which leads me to...

-- Stuff just happens. For no reason. Such as characters getting together romantically, well, just because. No build up, no logic, they just do because I guess they're both there and they have nothing better to do. Which leads me to...

-- The characters themselves. Completely non-existent. One reviewer on amazon said that if you take any random section of dialogue from the book, it is impossible to tell which character it came from. So true! The author is completely incapable of creating realistic, breathing characters that are different from each other. Instead they all talk the same, they all have the same reactions, the same motives, hook up randomly in the same way, etc. There is *nothing* believable about these people. And for some reason, they all write unbelievably detailed letters. Which leads me to...

-- Unbelievably detailed letters! Now I have read a number of great books that use the format of letter writing to convey the plot. But this? Ridiculous. Not only are these letters insanely long, but they are insanely detailed as well, creating yet another reason why the book and the characters are completely unbelievable. If that's how the author wanted to write this, why did she do the letter thing at all? Which brings me to my final big gripe (I've leaving the small ones out)...

-- The ending. OMG if you value your sanity, do not, I repeat DO NOT finish this book. Because if you are sane, you will get to the ending and go, 'What? What?? Are you f-n kidding me?? That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard!' No joke. The ending, especially after 600 pages, has got to be the biggest let down of any major novel in recent years. I won't spoil it here (however badly I want to vent about it), but I swear to you: it will cause you physical agony when you read it.

In short: bad book, promises a lot and delivers none of it. Ignore it, read something else.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
July 6, 2008 – Shelved
July 6, 2008 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-44 of 44 (44 new)

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Tracey Thank god I never got to the end... !!!

Laini I GOT to the end, and I'm laughing my ass off at your review. Perfect description. And yes, the ending, after all letdown. :thumbsup on the review:

message 3: by Martha (last edited May 15, 2009 06:27PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Martha Glad you liked it! :) But very sorry you read the whole thing! Please feel free to vent!

Ellise Haveman I give your review infinitely more stars than I gave this excruciatingly long book.
I especially loved your description of the end. I JUST finished it and endured that exact experience.
haha, kudos to you for your awesome reviewing skills.

Martha Thanks so much, and very sorry to hear that you too read the whole thing!

colleen the convivial curmudgeon I'm still on page 506 and trudging through. You're review is hilarious, though, and I look forward to thinking of it and laughing when I get to the ending, which I have no doubt you are perfectly correct about.

Martha Well of course I have to advise you to put the book down immediately, but if you get to the ending, do come back and let me know what you think!

colleen the convivial curmudgeon I did it - I finished it. I'm glad I did, just so that I'm not left wondering, but, yeah, hardly worth all the effort. I did find the last 150 or so pages fairly readable, even though I never really connected with or cared about any of the characters.


I quite liked the notion of Dracula as a scholar and book lover, though the notion that in 500+ years he couldn't organize his own damn library is absurd.


I wrote my own review, though, which was very cathartic *grins*

barutiel Fantastic review!! I agree with you completely!!

message 10: by LB (new) - rated it 1 star

LB I am glad I am not the only one that hated this book. its terrible. What got me was all the reviews I heard about before and the special they did on it(ABC I think) I was totally jazzed to read it. its gawd awful!

message 11: by Gracee (new)

Gracee LOL I got much more entertainment from your review than I did from this book. Perfectly sums it up.. and to think I made it to page 85 before I started CRINGING every time I glanced down and saw this book glaring back at me. I felt brow beaten by a book!! I knew we had to part ways. I've traded it back to the used bookstore (after all, SOMEONE might like it..?), and immediately swooped upon two more used books for my ever growing pile... :)

Crystal Thanks! I've been trying to finish for three years. Found it in the lost and found, maybe I should put it back??!

Leanne *Spolier*

I think some of the coincidences can be put down to Dracula's minions, but how does he keep meeting other people who have "the book"?

message 14: by Julie (new)

Julie Spencer Amazing review... It's been a few years since me and my best friend read it and we occasionally send random texts to each other referencing The Historian- specifically the end. Just to crack each other up. The ending is outrageous!! How does someone get away with that pathetic ending? It doesn't even make sense! Why? I still get riled up thinking about it... If I ever met the author, words would be exchanged.

Laura Wood I want to read a book written by you because this was a hilarious and spot on review of The Historian. I felt exactly the same about the ending when I finished it. I wanted to throw the book across the room but I was afraid it would make a hole in the wall with its immense weight.

message 16: by Laura (new)

Laura Morales You have said it all! Great review!

Christina Teilmann Your review summarises perfectly how I feel about this book. The only reason I've given it 2 stars instead of 1 was because I didn't want to give it the same rating as 50 Shades of Grey (the worst book I ever read). Then again, it really only deserves 1 star.
OMG the endless, incredibly detailed letters....
And what was the deal with starting each paragraph of the letters with the ". That made no sense to me at all, surely just one " at the beginning and one " at the end would suffice.
Dreadful book and a waste of time.

message 18: by Laura (new) - rated it 1 star

Laura I'm not finished yet but this is exactly how I feel about this book already. Now I really want to know what happens at the end...

message 19: by Arne (new) - rated it 5 stars

Arne Johannessen I just finished listening to an excellent audio adaption of the book and I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I am glad I didn't read any of the negative reviews in here before I listened to the book, and I think some of you who have become aware of the weaknesses of the book before you read it get to focused on that and miss out on just enjoying the atmosphere and feel of the book. I am a Dracula fan from childhood, and as a child discovering that Dracula was based on a real historical person i became entirely entriged and spent hours browsing through encyclopedias and old history books in search of the man behind the myth. "The Historian" brings that dayderaming child in me back to life. It's full of wonder and mystery. The author has actually done some good research too.

message 20: by Rob (new) - rated it 1 star

Rob Great review.

Rhett Hahaha thank you, I'm am very pleased the problems are consistent for readers. There's a lot of skill in my opinion, but the execution was excruciatingly painful as you passed pg. 100!

Rhett Hahaha thank you, I'm am very pleased the problems are consistent for readers. There's a lot of skill in my opinion, but the execution was excruciatingly painful as you passed pg. 100!

message 23: by Ele (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ele I completely agree with your review. It was a waste of my time. Twilight may have been a better love story than any of the "romantic" stuff in this book.

message 24: by Linda (new) - added it

Linda Ann I am actually sitting in a mall, laughing and writing this comment. Fantastic review! Way better than the book. And so true about the ending. I can't believe Dracula would want to live 500 years more just so he can catalogue books. Honestly, if I had 500 years more to live, I can think of million more things to do with my life.

message 25: by Greg (new)

Greg I have been going back and forth on carrying through with this book and I'm so glad I checked your and a couple other reviews here. I'm going to add it to a (hopefully tiny) new "Saved my time for something better" Goodreads list as it's the first book I have ever decided to not finish despite being a chunk into it (290 pages in).

Thank you!

message 26: by Zineb (new) - added it

Zineb I've reached page 162 and decided that I've really had enough of this book! Your wonderful review supports my decision, thank you for sharing. :]

Sharon Why didn't i read these reviews first instead of laboriously finishing it?

message 28: by Heidi (new) - rated it 1 star

Heidi I am done. Listening with audio book and in it about 15 chapters and just can't take it any more....The book came recommended by three good friends and I am not sure how they finished.

Kristin Sikes I abandoned it...

message 30: by Maria (new) - rated it 1 star

Maria I have been trying to read this book for years since my mom and husband likes it. Not my cup of tea. I agree about all the characters feeling the same, it made me keep forgetting who was saying what. And I just didn't care what happened to any of them. Too much detail in the wrong spots and not enough in the things that make me like a book. That said, I'm glad it's over.

message 31: by Angel (new) - rated it 1 star

Angel Edson Hahaha! Perfect review! I am on page 465 and it's taken a monumental effort to get this far (have also been reading another novel in between) I completely agree with everything you said, and I thank you for not making me feel guilty for jumping ship before the end

message 32: by Kassi (new) - rated it 1 star

Kassi Couldn't agree more. And things they drone on and on about end up essentially meaningless. So so bad. Sadly I've stopped taking book recommendations from my friend who told me about this book. Worst book I've read in a very very long time.

Jennifer I agree. I had not thought about the relationship and character development. There was so much text book material I was trying to keep track of thinking I needed it. But I didn't.

Kalle Nelson This review is so spot on! I was very disappointed in this book

message 35: by Pam (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pam Criscitiello Try listening to it; I found it very interesting and easier to follow that way; really, a very interesting story with unique characters.

Liliana Pulbere I'm on page 649 and I just feel like the story will never come to an end! I couldn't agree more - the book is just too long and it indeed contains too many ridiculous coincidences... I've never been stuck to one book for so long...

Victoria Turner Well I love it, and will read it again.

Richelle Priscilla Don’t I WISH I listened to people and read this review before reading this book because you are absolutely right about everything and I’m trying not fume. I wasted my TIME with this one my goodness. Good review, you hit the points very well on why this is such a waste of a read.

message 39: by Ele (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ele Richelle wrote: "Don’t I WISH I listened to people and read this review before reading this book because you are absolutely right about everything and I’m trying not fume. I wasted my TIME with this one my goodness..."

YES!!! I think we might be soulmates on books, lol

message 40: by Stephy (new)

Stephy Thank you for your review after reading the book summary I thought it would be interesting book but after I read your review I knew not to bother with this book at all! So thank you for saving me time and money on a horrible book!!! 👍🏻

message 41: by Nick (new)

Nick Strater I hate not finishing books...but can't seem to stay interested in this one

message 42: by Marisa (new)

Marisa Bustamante This review makes me feel SOOOOO much better. I legitimately thought it was just me trying to get into the swing of reading regularly again. But Jesus Christ. I can't with this book. Stopped after pg. 85.
Thank you for making me feel sane!

message 43: by Monica (new)

Monica Cooper Thank goodness I read your review before reading this. Thank you!

message 44: by Heidi (new)

Heidi Novack Glad I read your review before reading this book ; very good summary of the shortcomings you felt the novel had! Thank you!!

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