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The Historian

A novel by Elizabeth Kostova

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Anemic Dracula Casts No Shadow in this Lengthy Tale

  • Aug 4, 2005
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There is no denying that "The Historian" by Elizabeth Kostova is a magnificently researched book that takes its characters and its readers on a finely rendered tour of Eastern Europe. Adroitly recreating the Cold War era, it also hints of the former majesty of the opulent Ottoman Empire with its secret societies that more that helped its Sultan gain a foothold in the Balkans and onwards towards Vienna.

However, like the suppressed political ideologies the book depicts, all the carefully planned details and skillfully drawn secondary personalities ultimately cannot support the book's rather bald main theme: the historical Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, undestroyed by Van Helsing and Co. as chronicled in the Bram Stoker classic, lives to find fresh blood not just to sustain himself, but for a purpose I will not disclose for those readers who really must have the desire to plough through "The Historian's" 600 plus pages.

And blood is exactly what this rendition of Dracula sorely needs. Kostova's Dracula barely makes an appearance and when he does, all of the sensuality and allure that have become trademark attributes of vampirism from as far back as Bela Ligosi's ever-important portrayal and successfully epitomized by the likes of Gary Oldman, Frank Langella, Christopher Lee, Brad Pitt, and their ilk, has been drained by Kostova's rather stodgy treatment. Here long life has endowed our Vlad the Impaler with as much soulful motivation as a Wall Street day trader.

As the age old battle between immortality and damnation does not even come into play here, the moody, harried and dolorous Bram Stoker-ish atmosphere that Kostova does manage to convey to the reader comes off as a black, white and grey stage setting akin to that used in the 70s Broadway play starring Frank Langella. Back then, the blood red of that Dracula's cape lining suggested something mystical and mysterious that acted as a lure to his victims. It called to the audience with its timeless romantic charisma of forever life and promised non-stop physical sensuality that went well beyond human.

Kostova's characters demonstrate only the horror of contact with such a creature. Dracula's bites and those of his minions are not the lazy sensuous soul kisses of men who have the time for a forever courtship or the contemplation of the meaning of life. Rather they are razor sharp jabs of the rapier, quick and pesky mosquito bites with no such attached longings or thoughts of maybe immortality. The slow search for the soul and its ensuing magnetism that spawned a generation of Forever Knight fans and Anne Rice's LeStat lovers is scoured clean until this well-read and well-intentioned Impaler becomes a musty old pair of easily dismissed bat wings that neither snare nor scare.

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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
Diana Faillace Von Behren ()
Ranked #167
I like just about anything. My curiosity tends to be insatiable--I love the "finding out" and the "ah-ha" moments.      Usually I review a book or film with the … more
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Wiki

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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