Friday, January 1, 2010

Review of THE HISTORIAN by Elizabeth Kostova

Happy New Year! Looking forward to great things in 2010. I finally finished reading The Historian on the first day of the new year. Below is my review of this captivating book which is a fine hybrid of the horror genre (it's about that ever popular vampire, Count Dracula) and literary novel. To my blog readers current and future, I wish you plenty of great literary discoveries in 2010, perhaps including my very own Patches of Grey. I plan to take a hiatus from book reading and reviewing (other than the children's books I'll continue to obtain for my daughter's reading pleasure) during the early portion of this year in order to focus on the completion of my second novel - Matters of Convenience.

The HistorianThe Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An engaging though somewhat overlong entry into the Dracula sweepstakes. Crammed full of historical data and anecdotes, it felt to me that a substantial portion of the backdrop could have been omitted without significantly subtracting from the overall plot. This book is largely told in letters, though the type of detail crammed letters only to be found within a novel, because not even writers correspond so thoroughly in real life unless what they're writing is a novel. The point of view shifts throughout the narrative, although instead of switching from one person's perspective to another it usually switches from one person's set of letters to those of another. But the reader (those of us outside the book) presses on because we're chasing after the second most charismatic villian of all time, trailing behind only Satan himself. I must say that I enjoyed Anne Rice's books more, not that it's a competition. Rice had the distinct advantage of making her vampires the main characters whereas Kostova chronicles the overlapping adventures of a group of vampire hunting historians. Dracula (spoiler alert) makes no more than a cameo appearance towards the end of The Historian, because this novel is not so much about the catch as it is about the pursuit. Ironically, even though much of the book felt stretched out longer than I felt was necessary to keep readers hooked, the end seemed a bit rushed and anticlimactic. I was reminded of my experience reading The Stand in that there was so much build up over such a long period of time (I'm not the world's fastest reader, so when I invest in a book with a page count in the 1000 neighborhood it takes me a while to get through it) that I would have only been fully satisfied if the book literally combusted as I read its final thrilling pages. Those who consider Twilight to be top shelf literature probably won't make it past page 100 of The Historian, but readers who enjoy meticulously researched historical/literary fiction that transports them through many countries over many centuries will find this book a worthy treat to sink their sharpened teeth into.

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1 comment:

  1. I would highly recommend this book. It's fantasyish enough for the fantasy lovers. It's lovely prose for the lit readers and never heavy-handed with the supernatural.