Friday, April 21, 2006

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

I was recommended this book last year and it was described to me as The Da Vinci Code for vampire lovers. The Da Vinci Code it was not.

Part of the story is told from the point of view of a woman who tells us the events she is to recount took place when she was a 16 year old girl and found a mysterious book among the things of her, historian turned diplomat, father. The book is blank but in its center, is a woodcut image of a dragon carrying the single word "Drakulya". She also finds a series of letters dating from 1930.

When she asks her father about the book, he goes on to tell her the story of when he found the book himself and how his life changed from that moment on. The book jumps from the young girls view, to her father, to his advisor (another historian) from the University of Oxford.

It seems that her father's advisor, Professor Rossi also had been given a similar book which intrigued him enough to go out and search for its origins. When Rossi goes missing the day after their conversation, Paul (the girl's father) feels the need to search him out and the book holds the key to his friend's disappearance.

We then follow Paul on his search for Prof.Rossi. He travels all over Europe with the daughter of the professor, Helen, in search of Dracula's tomb which he feels will be where he will find his friend.

The book itself is very slow at parts (most parts), it seems to pick up in the middle just to crawl later on. Even with evil minions tracking Paul and Helen's every move and the political climate that impede their search, we never get a real sense of urgency that makes an exceptional thriller.

The story gets bogged down by so many historical facts and details that it tends to lose connection to the reader. Most of the action is in the finding of historical documents and how they uncover layers to who was Vlad, the Impaler. The moments of horror are in the telling of Vlad's unmerciful reign. There are no real chases or threats (except for the librarian that refuses to die). When we finally catch up with Prof. Rossi and Dracula (yes, we do finally catch up with them) there is so much that has transpired and so much history behind Dracula's state of life, it's almost anticlimactic (Almost).

Another issue with the book is the flipping between storytellers. It can get confusing and irritating. At parts it leaves you hanging until we get back to the correct narrative and by then we have lost steam. It's like trying to stand at the door frame between two rooms and trying to hear two separate conversations at once.

I almost gave up on this title, but I had invested so much time in reading it, I just had to get to the end. The book is the latest hoopla out there and if you want to know what every one is talking about, I would recommend it. It does have it's moments. But if you value your time, I would skip the whole darn thing altogether.

Grade: C
Format: Audiobook


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