13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Give It A Chance!
The Historian is the first novel from the pen of Elizabeth Kostova. It's a novel said to have been ten years in the writing, and at 640 pages, it's also a novel many days in the reading.
Like Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, to which it is frequently compared, The Historian details a frantic quest for a secret long kept hidden; a secret that has only been hinted at...
Published on July 17 2005 by Stanley L. Turner
2.0 out of 5 stars Way too long
I found The Historian to be way too long and filled paragraphs and pages of tedious descriptions that had no impact whatsoever on the unfolding of the plot. The multilayered telling of the story could have been interesting if the main characters hadn't been so bland. Dracula himself might be the exception; ironically, he was the most 'alive' of them all, thought we sadly...
Published 1 month ago by Silverfox
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Give It A Chance!,
Like Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, to which it is frequently compared, The Historian details a frantic quest for a secret long kept hidden; a secret that has only been hinted at over hundreds of years. It's a quest made by a young couple, although the two characters are far better developed than anything Dan Brown managed in his novel. It's a quest that meanders across southern Europe, ducks into ruined churches, and delves into dark and musty tombs. It's a tale in which evil traces every footstep; a tale in which evil occasionally catches up with the hero and heroine.
The bulk of The Historian details Paul and Helen's journeys as they negotiate the treacherous ins and outs of the Cold War and the Iron Curtain, beginning their quest in Istanbul before slipping into Hungary and then Bulgaria. They follow their sinuous route from faint clue to fainter clue as they hunt for the resting place of a madman; a madman who still maintains an evil semblance of life five hundred years from his birth. They do this because somehow they know that this is where they will find the missing Rossi.
Kostova weaves the long tale of their quest with a careful eye to history and geography, dipping not only into the medieval history of this region but into more modern history; both pre-WWII Romania and Cold War Hungary. Unlike the hit-and-run technique practiced by Brown in Da Vinci Code - generally as a means for creating his "puzzling" moments - Kostova's historical lessons are carefully integrated into the text. You will not leave this novel without learning something of the Ottoman Empire, or of the history of the Orthodox Church. It's not only entertaining, it's educational as well.
Stylistically, Kostova has adopted literary conventions of Victorian novels. A lesser convention is her continual coyness about names and places - we never learn the young narrator's first or last name, for instance; nor is the prestigious university from which her father received his doctorate named at any juncture. Her main stylistic choice is telling her tale through the device of a series of letters. She does so several times; twice in Rossi's letters and once in a set of postcards. The bulk of the volume, though, recounts the series of letters written by Paul to his daughter. These letters chronicle his 1954 journeys in search of Dracula's tomb with the woman who later became his wife and the young girl's mother. Willing suspension of disbelief intrudes but briefly here - the pile of handwritten letters sufficient for this narrative would fill at least one file cabinet... but who cares?
I feel Kostova has succeeded where Bondurant and Geagley did not: she has created a novel that can sweep a reader along much as does Da Vinci Code. It will not, however, enjoy the same wild popularity as Brown's book, for it will not be denounced from pulpits across the land (thereby ensuring that the congregation will read it). Likewise, the tale does not progress at the same ridiculously breakneck speed as Brown's narrative, preferring instead to travel at a more leisurely pace within the reach of mere mortals.
In short, The Historian is everything The da Vinci Code ought to have been: it's literary, it's deeply and carefully researched, it imparts arcane knowledge to the reader, it builds a tale so complex that it is almost blinding and yet so simple that it could be summed up in a few sentences. It's a wonderful read, but try it for yourself! Pick up a copy! Another book I need to recommend -- very much on my mind since I purchased a "used" copy off Amazon is "The Losers' Club: Complete Restored Edition" by Richard Perez, a much lighter, oddly entertaining little novel I can't stop thinking about.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A landmark unforgettable novel!,
Also recommended: A LONG WAY DOWN by Nick Hornby, THE LOSERS CLUB: Complete Restored Edition by Richard Perez
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars New genre: Historical, horror, thriller!,
My biggest complaint is its length, it does drag in a few places. May just be me as it's about double the size of the typical book I read (a daunting 640 pages) and while I don't mind reading books that long, particularly when they're this good, I do get restless with a novel if I don't get through it in a couple of days.
1.0 out of 5 stars Could not even keep it in my library. Good thing I got it for cheap.,
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This review is from: The Historian (Paperback)I found the book to be dry, confusing and unfulfilling. I could not get immersed in the book and would often try and find other things to do to avoid this book. I will not give away too much for those who are thinking of getting it, but, it is in my opinion a book for a very patient person and I guess I did not have the adequate amount in order to enjoy it even in the smallest of amounts. Also one of the problems that stood out to me was the confusing change of narration. The author never gave you much of an indication that someone else was talking you kind of had to just assume or guess that you knew who was talking. After reading the book I looked on Goodreads to see how the book was doing publicly and I guess I was not the only one struggling with it. There were many who disliked it as greatly as I did and their were many who loved it. I myself am a person that needs to be taken by the book right away and this did not do it at all, I would not recommend it to anyone quickly but see for yourself, perhaps you will like it and it simply was just not for me.
2.0 out of 5 stars Way too long,
This review is from: The Historian (Mass Market Paperback)I found The Historian to be way too long and filled paragraphs and pages of tedious descriptions that had no impact whatsoever on the unfolding of the plot. The multilayered telling of the story could have been interesting if the main characters hadn't been so bland. Dracula himself might be the exception; ironically, he was the most 'alive' of them all, thought we sadly didn't see very much of him after all.
The beginning of the story was painfully slow. It got a little suspenseful towards the middle, but only for a few precious chapters. For all the time it took to finally get to it, the outcome was disappointingly expedited.
Once Dracula was so conveniently and easily dispatched, I only cared enough to read diagonally so that I would at long last reach this marathon's finish line. I am glad I did, though, for the last five pages were perhaps the best of the whole book.
2.0 out of 5 stars Elizabeth Kostova: The Historian,
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This review is from: The Historian (Paperback)This is an incomplete review, because I was unable to read the book thoroughly. I simply could not take the length of 900 pages, the slow pace of the main plot, the minute details of every layer of new information. Also, I was unable to recognize who is talking, the narrator, her father or Professor Rossi.
On the other hand, I was glad that someone has paid attention to the Balkan countries and peoples, the small, most Slavic now independent countries, the land, divided by religion, script and history, and the hateful encounters of centuries past and present. Kostova is originally from Slovenia, the most civilized and most northern part of the former Yugoslavia. There are other Slavs in the Balkans, the Croats, the Serbs, and the most Slavic of them all, the Bulgarians (even though their population is not ethnically Indo-European). And there is also Slavic Macedonia, the origin of the Cyrillic script that came out in the 9th century. Among non-Slavic countries, there is the most eastern of the former Roman provinces in Europe, Romania, from where came the story of Count Dracula.
One is surprised that by the end of the book Dracula is a hero, "standing there in thought and planning". I nonetheless think I understand somehow what Kostova meant. Dracula was, after all, a fighter and unlike a Hitler or a Stalin, we may say that he helped to keep Europe civilized and united against its enemies.
After this book Kostova continued writing, and in her following work she was able to succeed in crossing the line between academic research and a real novel.
2.0 out of 5 stars Great Ideas, Disappointing Execution,
This review is from: The Historian (Kindle Edition)I really wanted to like this book. It was an unfolding mystery involving old books and book collectors that played out across generations. And the central character had been amassing his library for centuries, driven by some dark obsession that was both frighteningly familiar to book lovers and twisted by his own evil nature. I envisioned something that might have been written collaboratively by Anne Rice (The Vampire Chronicles) and Alberto Manguel (The Library at Night), combining the long-lived, selfish wisdom of the vampire accented by an appreciation of the long histories of books in their collections.
It isn't a bad book, really. It just doesn't live up to its potential. The suspense-building in the first part of the book is well written. The writer's technique of using excerpts from old letters and journals creates an atmosphere of aged documents, dusty and obscure. And is specifically reminds readers of Bram Stoker's Dracula, by recreating this classic vampire tale's epistolary style. I didn't even mind the extensive treatment of medieval monks and their migration patterns, being sure that I was moving slowly toward a memorable encounter with an evil, but complex and interesting Dracula. One that would raise him to the level of a Lestat or a Memnoch.
And there is the great disappointment. Vlad Tepes is more a cartoon monster than a memorable personage. His long existence has not produced any insights or perspective, even twisted by selfish evil. There is no purpose, or even sense to the evil he wants to inflict on the world. This disappointment is so great that, very rare for me, I find myself wishing I had not read the book. My anticipation of it was so much more enjoyable than the reality.
I would not see you suffer this same pain. Do not read this book. Its disappointments far outweigh its delights.
2.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't live up to the hype,
This review is from: The Historian (Mass Market Paperback)Being an avid reader of such novels I thought the hype attached to this one must mean it has to be good, but I was wrong. It was dull, disappointing, and had no exciting revelation or wrap-up attached to the end of it, the hope for which was the only reason I forced myself to finish it. The place descriptions were obviously well-researched but beyond that it was a muddled mess of viewpoints and deadly textbook regurgitations of no apparent value to the story. I couldn't understand why the author spent so much time dwelling on things that did not advance what existed of the plot, which was very little. If you're going to pad your skeleton you better do a good job of it, and I'm sorry to say the padding in this book was like eating the stuffing in your cushion. I have to agree with the nay-sayers - this was a pointless attempt to fictionalize one's academic knowledge of a subject, without infusing any life into it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read, one of the best.,
By A Customer
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars `The past is very useful, but only for what it can teach us about the present.',
This review is from: The Historian (Mass Market Paperback)Late one night, in Amsterdam in 1972, a young woman exploring her father's library finds an ancient book , empty except for a woodcut print of a dragon, and a cache of yellowing letters addressed to `My dear and unfortunate successor'. This discovery leads her on a quest which contains somewhere, the secrets of her father's past and her mother's fate and a link to the truth about Vlad the Impaler.
There are three related stories with different timelines involved: Professor Bartholomew Rossi begins his research in 1930, his student Paul becomes involved from 1950, and the main narrative from 1972. This enables a lot of information to be provided about the life and times of Vlad the Impaler, the medieval ruler of Wallachia whose reign forms the basis of the Dracula myth.
I enjoyed this novel. The intersecting layers of the story supported the provision of the history required to support it as well as providing many more opportunities to create dramatic tension. This telling of the Dracula myth will not appeal to everyone: it is long and at times convoluted. But, for me, ultimately rewarding.
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The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (Mass Market Paperback - June 1 2008)
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