I love a good Gothic novel. Ever since reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in college I have loved the writing style and the eerie feel to the descriptions used in these books. The Historian is such a novel. Written by Elizabeth Kostova in 2005, I finally got around to reading this book that had been sitting on my shelf for two years.
Blurb on the Back:
The Historian is the story of a young woman plunged into a labyrinth where the secrets of her family’s past connect to an inconceivable evil: the dark fifteenth-century reign of Vlad the Impaler and a time-defying pact that may have kept his awful work alive through the ages. The search for the truth becomes an adventure of monumental proportions, taking us from monasteries and dusty libraries to the capitals of Eastern Europe – in a feat of storytelling so rich, so hypnotic, so exciting that it has enthralled readers around the world.
As you can see, it’s about the search for Dracula. Well, its a search for the truth that leads to the search for Dracula, er go, I had to read this book!
What more can be said about The Historian?
Well, it starts off with a teenage girl who has a very close relationship with her father. However, he keeps secrets and goes away on a lot of secret trips. Then he disappears. This prompts the young woman to go searching for him. Through a series of letters, she finds out more about her father, mother and her father’s mentor – who is the reason this search began in the first place.
There are many stories being told within the main story but the main story actually has four stories in one. Try saying that five times fast, ha ha! The young woman, her father, mother, and her father’s mentor. They are all historians in search for the truth.
The mentor, Professor Rossi, starts the adventure through basic historical curiosity that leads him down a dark path. He disappears. There is a book left for the father, Paul. He follows the bread crumbs which lead him to meeting his future wife and mother to the young woman. Together, they go looking for the professor, traveling around most of Europe and down the rabbit hole of evil.
My take on The Historian:
While I generally enjoyed the book, there are some things I didn’t enjoy about it. The story itself is amazing. I felt like I was reading a tamer version of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The writing however, reminded me a bit of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (a book that is mentioned a few times). It was kind of dry in certain parts. There were too many descriptions. Even the various monasteries described in the book were too long and I often found myself getting distracted by the descriptions that I forgot where I was in the context of the story.
Describing a great scene is pivotal to storytelling in my opinion but too much description takes away from the story and I found my mind wandering several times throughout the book. Telling a story within a story is challenging.
I have been writing a story about four vampire siblings for ten years now and am still struggling with telling the stories without boring the reader. So, I like that Elizabeth did this. What I didn’t like though was in the first part of the book, the stories are swapped so much that again, I found it difficult to follow at times. This may be a hard read for some.
The writer puts a lot of real life historical facts into the book that I thoroughly enjoyed. I learned more about the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria then I ever thought I would even like to. The Historian was more than entertainment for me. It was learning.
She also did this with Vlad the Impaler. I know a lot about the man but a lot of the history of who he really was and his achievements (and atrocities) are still a mystery to this day. So I really enjoyed learning more.
Dracula is a character who everyone loves to write about because he was a real person. Kind of like Robin Hood. At one point in history a real Robin Hood existed yet the legend has been told differently throughout the ages. He has become more fiction than fact. The same is said of Dracula and people love to write about the legend.
All in all I really enjoyed reading this book. I have made it a point to make reading a part of my bedtime routine so that I can get more reading in. I am looking forward to writing about the different books I plan to read in the coming year.
I hope you enjoyed my book review on The Historian!
Thanks so much for reading!
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