"The Historian" by Kostova

I did a search, but didn’t really turn up anything on it. I just finished it, and I really enjoyed the book. Not as suspenseful or thrilling as I had expected, but it kept my attention for the most part and I liked the way it was told through letters and memories.

I was curious how many of the texts she mentioned actually exist, or are thought to have existed, or whether she just made up some nice-sounding names.

I did find the ending a bit of a disappointment, though. It seemed very rushed.

I started it on tape and it didn’t “catch” me. To be fair, I am a hard sell on tape. I don’t enjoy books on tape nearly as much as I do real books. But I stopped listening halfway through.

I managed to finish it, but I really had to force myself. If the rest of the book had been as interesting as the last couple of chapters I would give it 5 stars. All I kept thinking is how much research this author must have done, man was it detailed and wordy.

So all in all, I didn’t hate it, I just wish she would have kicked it into gear at least halfway through, instead of waiting till the end. Or maybe shortened it by 300 pages or so.

As for how factual the texts were, I have no clue.

Stillwell Angel, did you have to promise yourself a chocolate bar to make yourself finish it? :slight_smile:

Anyway, holy cow, I’m almost halfway through this right now, and I can’t wait to get back to it. I’ve found it very engaging, right from the early chapters. I’d say I was completely hooked as soon as Rossi said Vlad was alive.

I don’t expect the resolution to be completely satisfying, given that I’m really loving the body of the story. Somehow certain plots just can’t be wrapped up as successfully as they are woven (I think *Ghost Writer * is another example). I think with my expectations managed, I will probably find it to be a very good book all around.

But then, I did a school project on Vlad Tepes in junior high, and have always liked vampire lore. I can see it getting a bit boring if this wasn’t a keen interest for the reader.

I have to say, I admire her talent at describing historical sites, and weaving the descriptions into the narrative. I’m not one to visit historical sites, and it’s easy for descriptions to get tedious to me, but her passages actually make me want to visit the places described, and they seem to contribute to the atmosphere of the novel.

I’ll be back when I’m done reading!

No, I’m just stubborn, I hate to give up on a book. Plus I felt all intellectual and hip to be reading it :stuck_out_tongue: I even kept it on my “keeper” book shelf, cause it looks very impressive. :smiley:

See that intrigued me too, enough to make me stubbornly finish it. I just got a little bored with alot of it. I give her props though, she put alot of work into that story.

It was the most boring book I had read since the agony that was Cold Mountain. I gave up after about 400 pages.

I wanted to like it. She did a decent job with place descriptions, not so good with characterization and dialogue, and there were too many unlikely coincidences and plot holes. But she wrote a couple of nicely creepy scenes, and the concept was intriguing. That was enough to keep me going.

Then she did something at about page 560 that made me go WTF? I skipped ahead to the last few pages, for the payoff.

Hardcover, first edition, woulda looked nice on the shelf, but I gave it away. It made me mad just to look at it, thinking about what she did.

I’m reading this for the third time right now – I really liked it, as you can see. I loved the richness of the history and geography, and like I’ve told many people, I can’t help but love a book in which every character is either a librarian, a scholar, or Dracula.

I thought it was great how believable the supernatural elements were as the book got going. Like when we’re hearing about Rossi in Istanbul looking at the maps and reading the inscription aloud, and then suddenly a door bangs downstairs and a strange man comes in and takes the maps…or when the narrator and her father are sitting at a cafe in Venice and a passing artist offers them a painting he’s made of them, and in the background is painted a mysterious figure all in black sitting at a table, though the narrator knew the table had been empty. Things like that – small creepy details that slowly let you know just what kind of story you’re reading.

And I actually dreamed about Professor Rossi last night. Funny.

What was it? I also think there were too many coincidences to make the plot believable, like sitting, by chance, at dinner in a restaurant, next to the Turkish professor that can best help them, or running into one of the Turkish professor’s secret society colleagues in the street. But then, come on! it’s a book about vampires! How realistic can it really be?

I had more of a problem with the father of our protagonist seeming to want to groom his daughter to be a vampire hunter?!? If I were him, I would never tell her anything, knowing that people that get interested in the subject habitually die horrible deaths, or, even worse, become one of the immortal undead.

Concerning the documents / places: I’m not a historian, but I imagine that many places were invented: e.g. the old library in Istanbul containing Sultan Mehmed’s collection, or the monastery in Lake Snagov. Most of the documents referring to Dracular are probably made up.

I’ve forgotten character names, so sorry this isn’t more specific – Kostova used amnesia to explain why a character forgot that he’d fallen in love and left the woman behind – he forgot all about her. The amnesia was selective – that one thing was all he forgot – and it was induced by liquor. Very cheap trick, IMHO.

I really wanted to like this book - vampires! History! But I didn’t think it was very well written beyond her vivid descriptions of Eastern European cities.
All her characters, from the 16 year old girl to old Vlad himself spoke with the exact same voice, and I couldn’t keep track of who was searching for whom, and whos flashback we were visiting. And as is the case with almost every vampire book I’ve ever read, Evil is always more interesting than Good, even when we are told a million times how icky it is.

AuntiePam - that was Professor Rossi, the advisor to our hero (and the father of our heroine) and the one that they search for during most of the book. I tried to find the part in the book that you mention (not around p. 560 by the way - must be someplace earlier), but I think there was more to it than just a glass of wine.

Arnold, I hope there was more to it – a knock on the head would have made more sense. The reason for the amnesia might have been fleshed out better later on – maybe there was a drug in the drink (which he drank in Greece, and it had a special name – “ambrosia” or something like that).

Are you reading the paperback or the hardcover? I was pretty sure about the page number.

It seems that people either loved or hated the book, no inbetweens.

What I disliked about the book was that at the end, she seemed to take the easiest way out. I’ll put it in a spoiler box just in case:

Helen knows that suicides might become vampires. So what does she do? She tries to commit suicide. Then she’s too ashamed to come back? It just seemed too dramatic a shift from her previous character. Also, no furthur mention of Barley is made… did he just continue on with his life as normal, was he impacted, did he turn into a kook, what?

And finally, I have a question about the very last part…

She was given one of the dragon books. So does that mean that Dracula survived, or that one of his minions was continuing his work? And did they ever say what happened to the other vampires?

I have a hardcover edition. I am surprised and impressed that you can remember page numbers (but not names!?!)

Arnold, I think it’s because I bitched about that part to my on-line book group, and on a couple of message boards, and at the Amazon site, so the page number stuck with me. But it looks like the memory has faded. :slight_smile:

Did Kostova ever give the daughter a first name? That bugged me too.

As soon as I read your question, the name “Catherine” popped up in my head, but looking back and doing a quick spot check in the book, the answer seems most likely to be no, no name was ever given for the daughter.

Just a little bump to see if anyone has any speculation on the ending…

liirogue: I assumed she got the back from one of Dracula’s minions - their fate is not mentioned. I suppose that you can’t have a book like that with a happy “everything is fine now” ending, or the cynical may think that she’s leaving the door open for the possible sequel, but it seemed to me that another appearance of that mysterious book at the end didn’t fit the internal logic of the story.

Here’s what I heard about the ending, as it pertains to Count Dracula. It makes the whole premise of the book a bit contrived, and maybe even silly.

Dracula needed someone to catalog the items in his library.

Is that right? I read a few pages toward the end to see who survived, and if Dracula made an appearance, but that’s all.