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The Historian

A novel by Elizabeth Kostova

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A Very Long Song.......

  • Sep 21, 2005
  • by
Rating:
+3
Elizabeth Kostova is a fine writer. That this is her first novel is amazing in that it has so many excellent aspects that are usually discovered more slowly in novels subsequent to number one. For that she deserves much applause. She knows how to build a story, populate the pages with a great variety of characters, pace the work so that the reader is encouraged to proceed through the plot line, and she obviously has done considerable research on the Dracula myth, Eastern Europe, Istanbul, Paris, etc etc etc. So why only the four stars?

For starters, this novel is printed in a typeface of such small point/font that reading the tiny print is laborious: when it comes to the italicized portions (of which there are MANY) the print is almost illegibly small. Couple this with the physical fault that the heavy tome is already almost 700 pages long and groping through this massive volume builds muscle - and requires a lot of patience.

Perhaps the overused subject matter of yet another Dracula inspired novel hinders, but the book remains on the bestseller lists across the country so obviously people never tire of the same old stories. Kostova does lead us through this interminable maze of a book with comfortable tour guides (main characters that fill everyone's need to get to know father, daughter, boyfriend, femme fatale, surprise motherhood, bad guys, saints, etc). But as if these multiple constants weren't sufficient she creates a cast of thousands in many different countries, leaving some barely outlined and other belabored beyond tolerance.

But Elizabeth Kostova writes well. Technically there are few flaws for a first novel. Her manner of telling - bouncing back and forth between daughter telling and father telling - requires some adjustment as there are no particular signpost breaks between the two renditions of the story. One 'flaw' might be the overuse (?overkill?) of letters, pages-long epistles from various sources that spread (in tiny italic print!) over pages and pages and feel as though they were placed in the story just to keep the weary reader aware of the story - sort of the role the Three Norns play in Wagner's "Götterdämmerung": 'just in case you're lost, let me reiterate the whole story to date'.

THE HISTORIAN is a book everyone seems to love and doubtless the Hollywood gaggle has optioned it for yet another sci-fi/thriller/'like the Da Vinci Code' extravaganza. For this reader I would have preferred an abridged, more taut, less verbiage form of a story that is all too familiar in the first place. But I'm sure this is a minority report. And Elizabeth Kostova is a fine writer. Grady Harp, September 05

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More The Historian reviews
review by . April 06, 2011
So, in order:      1.  Is it just me, or has there just been a glut of novels in the last decade or so based on the fiction of new-found materials about some older fictional topic:  new Shakespeare plays, new Sherlock Holmes mysteries.  All of these accounts purport to shed some new light on a historical (who was Shakespeare?) or fictional (did Holmes ever fall in love?) mystery.   Here Kostova reuses this now-overdone convention to explore whether Dracula …
review by . December 02, 2010
Ever since Bram Stoker published "Dracula" in 1897 the vampire genre has had a healthy and uninterrupted ascension amongst the works of literature. "The Historian" is one of the latest more successful additions to the Dracula lore and legend. As the title may suggest, the plotline of "The Historian" centers on several generations of related twentieth century historians who are becoming increasingly convinced that the myths and legends behind the historical figure of …
review by . June 24, 2010
Elizabeth Kostova's "The Historian" a book about the search for Dracula has got to be one of the most arduous books I have read in a very long time. In fact it's been almost 7 years since I read Stephen Kings "Dark Tower" series, and that's the last time I had a hard time finishing a book! I actually started in in October of last year and finally put it down after only 20 or so pages. I only picked it back up because my local book club picked it as the book of the …
review by . November 29, 2010
Ever since Bram Stoker published "Dracula" in 1897 the vampire genre has had a healthy and uninterrupted ascension amongst the works of literature. "The Historian" is one of the latest more successful additions to the Dracula lore and legend. As the title may suggest, the plotline of "The Historian" centers on several generations of related twentieth century historians who are becoming increasingly convinced that the myths and legends behind the historical figure of Count Dracula may in fact have …
Quick Tip by . July 01, 2010
One of the better vampire attempts of recent years. It needs more attention.
review by . July 01, 2010
I guess it sorta depends on which one you read first
There are lots of good things to say about Elizabeth Kostova's "The Historian"! It's moving, suspenseful, creepy, deeply atmospheric, haunting and informative at the same time about a particular area of the world and a point in time that few readers will be familiar with.      The basic plot is beautifully summarized in Amazon's editorial reviews and, frankly, I don't think I can improve on it ... so I'll reproduce it here for the reader's convenience: &nb …
Quick Tip by . June 30, 2010
an intresting twist on the origional vampire myth about count dracula. kind of long but very action packed with a writing style similar to dan brown of the di vinchi code.
Quick Tip by . June 28, 2010
Amazing vampire story.
Quick Tip by . June 26, 2010
This novel inspired my visit to Eastern Europe. I have wanted to visit Hungry since I was a small child, but never as much as I do now and I can't wait to visit all of Eastern Europe. I made a Romanian friend while reading this book in Knoxville, TN and we have built quite a relationship since we bonded over this book. He has shared so many of his experiences growing up there with me and then we compare what is in the book. Enjoy this sharing so much. Inspired by a really good book.
Quick Tip by . June 23, 2010
An enthralling tale but the plot is a little dragged out and the book can seem quite lengthy at times.
About the reviewer
Grady Harp ()
Ranked #104
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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The Historian is the 2005 debut novel of American author Elizabeth Kostova. The plot blends the history and folklore of Vlad Ţepeş and his fictional equivalent Count Dracula. Kostova's father told her stories about Dracula when she was a child, and later in life she was inspired to turn the experience into a novel. She worked on the book for ten years and then sold it within a few months to Little, Brown, and Company, which bought it for a remarkable US$2 million.

The Historian has been described as a combination of genres, including Gothic novel, adventure novel, detective fiction, travelogue, postmodern historical novel, epistolary epic, and historical thriller. Kostova was intent on writing a serious work of literature and saw herself as an inheritor of the Victorian style. Although based in part on Bram Stoker's Dracula, The Historian is not a horror novel, but rather an eerie tale. It is concerned with history's role in society and representation in books, as well as the nature of good and evil. As Kostova explains, "Dracula is a metaphor for the evil that is so hard to undo in history." The evils brought about by religious conflict are a particular theme, and the novel explores the relationship between the Christian West and the Islamic East.

Little, Brown, and Company heavily promoted the book and it became the first debut novel to become number one on The New York Times bestseller list in its first week on sale. As of 2005, it was the ...

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Details

ISBN-10: 978-0316011778
Editor: 0316011770
Author: Elizabeth Kostova
Genre: Historical Fiction, Horror, Vampires, Gothic Horror, Adventure, Thriller
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, Back Bay Books
Date Published: 2005
ISBN: 0-316-01177-0
Format: Novel
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