Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Book Thoughts- The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
published 2005
909 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

To you, perceptive reader, I bequeath my history....Late one night, exploring her father's library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters. The letters are all addressed to "My dear and unfortunate successor", and they plunge her into a world she never dreamed of-a labyrinth where the secrets of her father's past and her mother's mysterious fate connect to an inconceivable evil hidden in the depths of history. The letters provide links to one of the darkest powers that humanity has ever known — and to a centuries-long quest to find the source of that darkness and wipe it out. It is a quest for the truth about Vlad the Impaler, the medieval ruler whose barbarous reign formed the basis of the legend of Dracula.

Generations of historians have risked their reputations, their sanity, and even their lives to learn the truth about Vlad the Impaler and Dracula. Now one young woman must decide whether to take up this quest herself — to follow her father in a hunt that nearly brought him to ruin years ago, when he was a vibrant young scholar and her mother was still alive. What does the legend of Vlad the Impaler have to do with the modern world? Is it possible that the Dracula of myth truly existed — and that he has lived on, century after century, pursuing his own unknowable ends?

The answers to these questions cross time and borders, as first the father and then the daughter search for clues, from dusty Ivy League libraries to Istanbul, Budapest, and the depths of Eastern Europe. In city after city, in monasteries and archives, in letters and in secret conversations, the horrible truth emerges about Vlad the Impaler's dark reign — and about a time-defying pact that may have kept his awful work alive down through the ages. Parsing obscure signs and hidden texts, reading codes worked into the fabric of medieval monastic traditions — and evading the unknown adversaries who will go to any lengths to conceal and protect Vlad's ancient powers — one woman comes ever closer to the secret of her own past and a confrontation with the very definition of evil.

My thoughts -

You see how the synopsis for this novel seems to go on and on? That's mostly the problem with the whole book. I like the idea for the story - I felt sympathetic toward the main characters - I was creeped out in appropriate places. It's not a bad book - it's actually quite good - there is just SOOOOO MUCH of it.

Much of the novel is presented in letter form, either from one character to another or from one character to a separate personage. I don't mind this literary convention most of the time, but it seemed like the author in this case used it to give readers and info dump - and then it just happened over and over again. Just when the story seemed to be picking up momentum, I'd turn the page and it would be another letter. It was hard to ever feel a real connection with any one character because the letters kept intruding on the storyline.

The other major problem I had with the novel was that it was often difficult to distinguish exactly whose story we were reading at the beginning of each chapter. There were no chapter headings of any kind, and with a story this complicated it often took me several paragraphs in before I realized in which time period we were heading.

It was a shame I had these struggles with the novel, because I found it to be quite engaging in many places. Despite the fact that I found it to be occasionally frustrating, I was intrigued enough to keep reading. The ending was quite exciting, although I would have loved more detail. (Ironic, right?)

Ultimately, the excessive length kept me from fulling enjoying the novel. It was an interesting reading experience, but probably not one I would easily recommend.

Finished - 10/31/13
Source - my shelves
MPAA rating - R for adult themes and violence
My rating - 6//10

3 comments:

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nrlymrtl said...

I finally finished this book for the read along.

It was a reread for me, having enjoyed it several years ago. The letter within a letter format worked for me. Though there were times I wanted more explanation - especially about Dracula and his powers and his minions.

I loved the descriptions of cities, libraries, and food. and I would have enjoyed a little more info at the end concerning Dracula.

~Caitie~ said...

While this is a book I quite enjoyed and would reread, your thoughts about the end mirrored exactly how I felt. I wanted to understand Dracula more. I recommend it, but only to people who read the original Dracula.