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Book #32 – The Historian – the end

September 23, 2009

Before we get into this I just need to, umm..WOOOOOOOOOOOOOT! I FINISHED! FINALLY!!

Okay, now that I have that over with, let’s get down to business.

historian2

UK paperback cover

The most basic summary I can give for Kostova’s The Historian is that it is a search for the grave of Vlad Tepes, known worldwide as Dracula. This search, however, is not just a search through ancient cities and crypts, it’s a journey through documents and letters. A search in which those involved aren’t in danger in dark alleyways, but in libraries pouring over mysterious texts.

Kostova does a wonderful job weaving together the stories of a number of different people from a number of different time periods to make a unified story line. The story centers on three time periods – a 17-year old in the 70’s, her parents in the 50s, and her father’s mentor in the 30s. But quite a few other people join in now and then to add their 2 cents. The chapters constantly switch from one point of view to another without getting confusing or without, for the most part, interrupting the pace of the book. The stories are told through letters, oral accounts, and historical documents, some of which are fiction and some are not. Kostova has mixed so much fact with fiction that at times it’s hard to know what is true and what isn’t. A wonderful combination!

I’m too much of a wimp for scary books, and this was just the right level of creepiness for me. There isn’t enough gruesomeness to give you nightmares, but vampires lurking in the shadows will sneak undetected into your dreams. Kostova sets the mood with a sinister undertone early in the book and keeps it up throughout.

However, I somehow made Dracula seem a little less sinister because for some reason I couldn’t get this image out of my head:

hook1

The descriptions of “long, curling, dark hair,” “the long straight nose,” and “wiry, dark mustache” were suppose to instill this picture:

vlad tepes

But once I had Hook in my head, the real thing was lost on me.

Anyway…back to the real details of the book. Kostova’s attention to detail is fantastic. She makes everything from the texture of the documents to the noisy streets of Istanbul so real. I especially enjoyed her descriptions of Budapest and the Romanian countryside, as those are the only two places in the book I’ve been to. I could almost taste the delicious Hungarian bread that is served with every meal.

I’ve got to mention something about the size. Yes it is enormous (the mass market paperback I have is 800+ pages), and yes it is daunting. If the book hadn’t already been sitting in our house for months I probably wouldn’t have read it. And true, near the end I was getting a bit antsy for it to be over already. BUT, that being said, I’m really glad I did read it. I very much enjoyed the story and the various characters that played a part in it, both historical and fictional. Plus, the mood was perfect for the beginning of fall!

My rating: 8.5/10

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. September 23, 2009 6:11 pm

    I’ve had a copy of this on my shelf for, um. Four years? (And actually, I’ve had two different formats– hardcover and paperback– and it’s still terribly daunting.) I’ve tried reading it at least three times and got stopped up around chapter four each time. People keep saying it’s good, though, so I really do want to read it! Maybe I’ll make it a personal winter holiday reading challenge thing, lol.

    • September 23, 2009 6:55 pm

      Four years? Yup, I think it’s time to read it! The first 100 pages or so took a little bit of work to get through, but then things started to pick. It’s definitely not a fast-paced, action-filled book, but I really liked the mix of history and fiction that were used to tell the story.

  2. Lisa permalink
    September 23, 2009 8:24 pm

    I laughed out loud when I saw Dustin Hoffman! That’s too funny. Great review!

    • September 24, 2009 9:45 am

      It’s hard to take Dracula seriously when you picture him as Dustin Hoffman :)

  3. September 24, 2009 5:03 am

    I have this book and have not attempted because I am intimidated by its length!

    • September 24, 2009 9:44 am

      I know, the length is kind of scary (maybe even scarier than Dracula himself), but it is a really enjoyable read.

  4. September 24, 2009 10:16 am

    interesting. I read this book, and hated it. I thought it was very long winded and although I know the countryside is beautiful, I felt dedicating at least 3 long paragraphs about it just made my eyes roll. I think what got to me, was I read this huge large encyclopedia like book only to a: not really enjoy it b: wasn’t scared and c: WTF about the ending. so in that time span of 800 or so pages I could have read at least 3 books. Ptoooie to this book. :P

    I like reading different viewpoints on this book though. Good review.

    • September 24, 2009 10:26 am

      It’s true, the ending wasn’t all that fantastic. There was sooooo much build up, and everything ended in like 2 pages.

      I probably liked this book because I’m easily scared and wouldn’t be able to handle anything scarier than this :D

  5. September 24, 2009 12:11 pm

    Yay! I’m so glad someone else has read this and liked it. I can’t wait to read it again. And I sooo agree about the Captain Hook thing :)

    • September 24, 2009 12:57 pm

      I don’t know if I could read this one again, but I’m glad I at least read it once.
      Seriously, Captain Hook totally fits the description of Dracula. Other than, you know, not being a scary vampire.

  6. cjz111 permalink
    September 27, 2009 12:52 pm

    Good for you!!!! Love your visual for Dracula. I wonder if that is what I will picture now when I read this. Your teasers and now you review have convinced me. I think I am going to start this one tonight.

    • September 27, 2009 4:07 pm

      Uh oh, I hope I haven’t ruined Dracula’s sinisterness for you! :)
      I’m happy you’re going to start reading this – can’t wait to hear your thoughts on it!

  7. Schatzi permalink
    October 2, 2009 3:59 pm

    But once I had Hook in my head, the real thing was lost on me.

    Hahahaha.

    But in all seriousness, glad you enjoyed it.

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