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The Historian

A novel by Elizabeth Kostova

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Gothic Horror Meets Modern Balkan History

  • Nov 29, 2010
  • by
Rating:
+4
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 some basis in reality. However, by pursuing several leads in their historic research they thread on thin ice as there seem to be several centuries old conspiracies that aim to keep the truth behind the legends permanently hidden.

One of the book's greatest strengths is the detailed and largely accurate portrayal of various Balkan socialist countries from in the middle decades of the twentieth century. As someone who has grown up in one such country I was able to relate to many aspects of the story that touched upon that historical period. Kostova has a great command of the Balkan history, both modern and ancient. She blends many aspects of that history skillfully in creating a novel that is exciting to read, yet does not go overboard in unnecessarily sensationalizing certain events. This is especially remarkable considering novel's very pronounced supernatural themes.

A great deal of space is dedicated to the character development, and most of the story's tension and poignancy stems from the complex and evolving interpersonal relationships of its protagonists. History is a much more interesting subject when viewed from the point of view of people on whom it leaves the greatest impact. However, because most of the story was told in a form of nested narratives that span three (and sometimes more) generations of historians, it is not always easy to keep track of the events as they enfold. The rich imagery and the fascinating pseudo-historical details can only go so far in sustaining reader's attention over the course of hundreds of pages.

The ending of this book was somewhat abrupt and not nearly as elaborate as all the chapters leading up to it. I got the impression that Kostova either got bored with the narrative and couldn't wait to bring it to a close, or was not all that interested in writing the scenes that involve actual physical confrontations. I wish that more space would have been dedicated to this aspect of the story. The chase and the mystery that push the narrative forward are wonderful, but if they are not reinforced with a powerful ending they leave the reader dangling.

Despite its few shortcomings, this is a very well written, literary and informative modern retelling of the Dracula story.

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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 …
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.
review by . June 23, 2010
Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian was published in 2005, the same year as the first novel in the Twilight series. Like Twilight, The Historian deals with vampires and the folklore surrounding them. This is where the similarity between the two novels ends. It would be a mistake to discount Kostova's first novel as another manifestation of the current vampire trend.       Kostova's novel is intellectual and will appeal to those familiar with academia. Almost all …
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Bojan Tunguz ()
Ranked #53
I am a benevolent rascal. I love lounging in bed on a Sunday morning. Rainy days make me melancholy, but in a good kind of way. I am an incorrigible chocoholic. I hate Mondays, but I get over it by Wednesday. … 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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