When I tell people about Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, they usually give me a sceptical look, sometimes accompanied by a roll of the eyes or even a sneer. It isn’t entirely surprising. The Historian is about a young woman searching for her father and uncovering the true history of Dracula. So, yes, it’s a vampire book and, given the popularity of such franchises as True Blood and the Twilight series, it’s understandable that some people might be feeling a tad vampired-out. But trust me when I say that this is not a reason to skip Kostova’s take on the mythos.
Part mystery, part romance and part horror, The Historian is aimed squarely at an adult and literate audience. Kostova has crafted a layered story–or, in fact, a series of connected, overlapping stories. We follow a young woman as she searches for her, using a series of letters he has left behind to guide her. Within her father’s tale, we learn of Professor Rossi and his obsession with uncovering the truth behind the historical Dracula, Vlad Tepes. The story develops patiently, with bursts of sudden action, building tension as each clue, each bit of Rossi’s, the father’s and the girl’s respective but connected stories are uncovered. The prose is elegant, beautiful and readable. The ending is satisfying, if a little rushed, a little sudden.
A word about description: The story takes the girl on a train trip through Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania, and Kostova ensures that we feel as though we are along for the ride. After having read The Historian, I wanted more than anything to take such a trip myself. I’ve yet to do it but, when I do, I might take it as a chance to reread this wonderful novel, watching the scenery unfurl both outside the train window and on the page . . .
Visit Elizabeth Kostova’s website here.
If you enjoyed the following list of titles, you are likely to enjoy The Historian. Likewise, if you have read and enjoyed The Historian, you will surely like these titles: The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova; The Time-Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger; Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger; The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield