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The Historian

A novel by Elizabeth Kostova

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(3.5) "In this spot he is housed in evil. Reader unbury him with a word."

  • Aug 20, 2005
  • by
Rating:
+3
In 1972, a sixteen-year old girl spends this pivotal year in a somewhat unusual pursuit, her professor father a traveling lecturer/historian based in Amsterdam: she joins her father in city after city as he reveals the story of a mysterious book that came into his possession by chance in his graduate study days. The book is connected to the legend of Dracula or Vlad the Impaler, a central figure in vampyric lore. Thought to have died in 1472, there is some question about the location of the tomb and a bizarre possibility that Vlad may, in fact, still be alive.

Too terrified to tell the story all at once, the girl's father reveals small pieces of a convoluted journey through the past, as they travel to distant countries, each new city the occasion of more information; but her father is careful to keep these discussions away from their residence in a futile attempt to protect them from whatever evil has been unlashed upon the world. The girl's father was trained in his research methods by Professor Rossi, who disappeared soon after admitting his own search for the tomb, having come across a similar volume in the 1930's, an ancient leather journal with a Byzantine etching of a dragon on the cover. Listening to her father's unbelievable story, the girl is infected with curiosity as well, equally besieged by terrible and frightening events as she pursues information on her own. Clearly, this is not a subject to be trifled with by the uninitiated.

Layer by layer, country by country, character by character (both human and vampire), mystery by mystery, the insidious plot develops, more clues unveiled, all leading to the same, irrevocable conclusion: either Vlad the Impaler or some associated evil has survived the centuries and walks the world with impunity, shielded by secrets and societies pledged to keep the location of the tomb hidden. By the time the story is finished, the daughter has caught up with her father's labyrinthine story, another father-daughter relationship is exposed, the girl's mother discovered, all involved in the denouement of a terrible truth. Generations are bound by an impossible search, traveling through gothic settings, impeded everywhere by lurking creatures straight out of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Even in a modern world, there is an aura of antiquity to the tale, the cities buried in the familiar terrain of ancient civilizations. I would have no trouble placing these characters in an 1880's drawing room; for all of its immediacy, the novel may be more accessible in a Victorian atmosphere, the protagonists mired in literature, history and mythology. Doubtless Dracula would lead them all on an unearthly chase, no matter what century he inhabits. Luan Gaines/2005.

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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
Luan Gaines ()
Ranked #110
An artist/writer, I have traveled the world, walked on the moon and learned the complicated language of humanity, the enormity of the universe... all through the written word. My first passport was a … 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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