The Vast Wasteland

Sheila's rantings, most likely of no interest, on TV, movies, books, music, etc.

My Photo
Location: Seattle, Washington, United States

I live in Seattle, am married, have two cats (one is a genius, the other insane), and am a mild-mannered copy editor by day. I love horseback riding, coffee, reading, TV, movies, music, playing (too much) World of Warcraft, and lying on the couch. This isn't a personal blog, but rather a place for me to vent about movies, TV shows, books, music, etc. Thanks for checking in!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Book Review: The Historian

Contains Spoilers! (Sorry--can't thoroughly review without discussing what happens)

The Historian is a debut novel by Elizabeth Kostova. And what a debut! First, here's what I enjoyed about the novel. It's primary focus is on historical research--this is a novel about books, and researching, and scholars. However, what really makes this book come alive are the characters. Through minimal melodrama, Kostova makes you really like and worry about her characters--the narrator, her father, her mother, her grandfather, the other scholars who are researching Vlad the Impaler (Dracula). At its core, this is a novel about family. Also, despite the somewhat slow pacing (or perhaps because of it?), this book has great suspense. At one point, a librarian slightly tilts his head to expose the double puncture marks of a vampire on his neck--and it was horrifying. Even small gestures like this are full of terror; I think because they contrast so greatly with the rational, scholarly tone of the book.

I love how the book weaves small supernatural elements into the narrative--very subtly, keeping the tone very intellectual. Even though Vlad himself doesn't show up until the last 50 pages or so, he's everywhere in the book, either as a shadowy figure staring in the background, or as the power behind his evil minions, who distribute mysterious books to scholars (the books are what spark the characters' interest in Vlad) and attack people to make vampire servants for Vlad. Vlad is horrifying and depraved, yet like all good vampires, he's also hypnotic.

The Historian is a brilliant title for this book, because of the ambiguity about who the Historian actually is. The narrator is a historian, and it's her book--however, both her parents are historians, and their adventures make up the bulk of the plot. Yet Vlad himself may be the ultimate historian--not only studying, but living through, history .

The one complaint I have about that book is that it's about 200 pages too long (it's 642 pages long in hardcover). The last 150 or so pages fly by--but the middle section drags a bit. I'm also not sure why it's so hyped. It's a wonderful book, but doesn't seem to be the sort of thing most people would be interested in. Still, if you like sublte, quiet, suspense-driven vampire tales, give The Historian a read.


Blogger John said...

Hyped prolly because it was a DiVinci Code type novel, where there is a lot of history, research, a historical figure, and intrigue.

Plus, vampires are big for sales, I reckon.

11/28/2005 3:04 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home