First line: "The story that follows is one I never intended to commit to paper."
The Historian is the interweaving of three stories. One from the 1930s, another from the 1950s, and the main narrative from the 1970s. The common denominator for all three stories is the quest for answers to the truth about Vlad Tepes (the Impaler), also known as Dracula. These interweaving stories involve mysterious old books, castles, crypts and a realization by the characters that the undead do exist.
Kostova provides plenty of atmosphere and uses a rather old fashioned way of revealing her story that reminds me of Bram Stoker. I'm sure this was intentional. Her novel could have easily devolved into mere cliche, but Kostova put her own twist on the vampire legend. She also avoided too much focus on the grotesque and instead created tension using the sinister. There are plenty of castle ruins, secluded monasteries, underground crypts, sinister librarians, and ominous Eastern Bloc secret police to hold the reader in suspense.
Kostova was able to use her characters to promote the idea that history is not dead and it is not just a story to be told. People actually lived and experienced the events from which we feel so removed. The horrors and the joys of the past were real to someone. Kostova also brought the historical research process to life and showed it as something active and exciting and even dangerous. The map of Cold War Europe on the front and end pages of the book was extremely helpful and gave some sense of place to the story.
At 642 pages (hardback version), the book is a commitment but I found it a good read that held my attention throughout.
Rating: 4 out of 5
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Also reviewed at:
Bookworms and Tea Lovers (Samantha)
What Kate's Reading
Musing of a Bookish Kitty (Literary Feline)
The Written Word (Stephanie)
Things Mean a Lot (Nymeth)
Out of the Blue (Alessandra)
ReviewsByLola's Blog (Stephanie)