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The Historian

A novel by Elizabeth Kostova

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I guess it sorta depends on which one you read first

  • Jul 1, 2010
Rating:
+3

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:

"The story opens in Amsterdam in 1972, when a teenage girl discovers a medieval book and a cache of yellowed letters in her diplomat father's library. The pages of the book are empty except for a woodcut of a dragon. The letters are addressed to: "My dear and unfortunate successor." When the girl confronts her father, he reluctantly confesses an unsettling story: his involvement, twenty years earlier, in a search for his graduate school mentor, who disappeared from his office only moments after confiding to Paul his certainty that Dracula--Vlad the Impaler, an inventively cruel ruler of Wallachia in the mid-15th century--was still alive. The story turns out to concern our narrator directly because Paul's collaborator in the search was a fellow student named Helen Rossi (the unacknowledged daughter of his mentor) and our narrator's long-dead mother, about whom she knows almost nothing. And then her father, leaving just a note, disappears also."

Sounds exciting, doesn't it?

Kostova's superb writing skills will charge the reader with suspense and a delicious frisson of horror from the very first page. But, sadly, those heightened expectations are slowly deflated over the course of a rather lengthy novel . Indeed, as I turned the final page, the conclusion that had been building in my mind for more than a few chapters crystallized into a firm conviction! Bram Stoker did it first and, because of that, Bram Stoker unquestionably did it better! Kostova's a great writer but "The Historian" is an average and frankly derivative novel that did little more than recast the hunt for Dracula's final resting place into a modern format.

Let's put it this way ... if you've not read Bram Stoker's "Dracula", then Kostova's "The Historian" is liable to take your breath away. But, if you're looking for new insights into the Dracula legend or a different take on the story, I would submit that you're sadly set up for disappointment.

Paul Weiss

I guess it sorta depends on which one you read first I guess it sorta depends on which one you read first

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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.
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 …
About the reviewer
Paul Weiss ()
Ranked #16
   A modern day dilettante with widely varied eclectic interests. A dabbler in muchbut grandmaster of none - wilderness camping in all four seasons, hiking, canoeing, world travel,philately, … 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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