Wednesday, 10 February 2010

The Historian By Elizabeth Kostova

A review thanks to special guest blogger Rameau:

When a young girl finds a book embroidered with a picture of a dragon and a letter beginning with the words "My Dear and Unfortunate Successor" in her fathers library, she's unaware of the Pandora's box she's opened. She has stumbled on a legacy of evil, an obsession, which is handed down to selected few in each generation. It's a mystery that intrigues the historian within her and leads her on a journey following the footsteps of her parents. That journey starts with a story the girl's father tells her about the disappearance of Professor Rossi, about the expedition to find him together with Helen and about the terrifying figure behind it all: Dracula.

In "The Historian" there are several timelines told concurrently, each revealing a little more of the truth buried under the weight of the history. It's a great way to keep the reader guessing what will happen next, but it's also confusing and prevents any true character development. The history itself is the main point. The girl, her father, Professor Rossi and others are just empty templates for the reader to insert real people into and ask the question: "What if this happened to me?"

The book is also long for a condensed edition, but the short chapters make it easy to read the story gradually. This is also its weakness. If the reader isn't used to dry and factual text, they can feel tempted to abandon the story before it really starts. The slow introduction and the careful layering are essential to the culmination of the plot. When the author finally presents her first description of Dracula instead of a litany of facts, it's shockingly realistic.

Bottom line: If you like facts and history, and if you would like to read about vampires without overly sexual plots, this is the book for you. Just don't pick up any old books with dragon pictures in them.

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