Book Review: The Historian

The Historian

Elizabeth Kostova

Back Bay Books

720 pages

We’ve got a young, unnamed narrator living in Amsterdam learning the story of her father.  Paul was first dragged into the “myth” of Dracula as a graduate student after working closely with his advisor, Bartholomew Rossi.

Rossi disappears suddenly, under suspicious circumstances, and Paul has reason to believe that finding the tomb of Dracula will lead him to discovering Rossi’s whereabouts.  Right as this is occurring, he comes across a woman named Helen in the university library.  She is reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which obviously caught Paul’s attention. The two form an instant bond and Helen immediately offers to accompany Paul on his search for Dracula’s tomb.

Writing a review for this book feels next to impossible.  It is huge and so involved.  Reading it took more out of me than any book I have read in a long time!

My biggest issue with this book is that I feel like, with a book of this length, an extra effort needs to be made to make the book entertaining.  At 720 pages, I need more excitement than your average book.  Kostova kind of dropped the ball on this one.  It’s not that I think that the book included too much needless information.  Instead, it was just portrayed in a very dry way at times.  Especially given the fact that these are graduate students doing research.  That can get boring quick.  There was one point towards the end where I actually had to start skimming because the writing style became too much like that of a research novel instead of a book.

However, The Historian was a very well woven and well researched book.  I loved the history behind it.  I had no knowledge of Vlad the Impaler, Dracula, or Eastern Europe, so The Historian really enlightened me on those topics.  I was definitely very reflective after reading this book–it was the type of book I was still digesting even after I finished reading it.

Other Reviews:

Musings of a Bookish Kitty

So Many Books, So Little Time

Devourer of Books

Tip of the Iceberg

I purchased this book from B&N.

This book counts towards the RIP challenge.

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20 Responses

  1. Like you, I couldn’t completely love this book. My problem with it was that, though the story gets told by different people through letters, etc., they all had the same voice. I don’t think Kostova was successful in distinguishing the voices of her narrators. That said, I still found it somewhat entertaining.:)

  2. I admit, this one scares me just a little. I’m not sure I could read it!

  3. I tried reading it some time back and couldn’t get too far for the same reasons you state. I have been told I would love it—if I could finish it.

  4. I really liked The Historian and Fahrenheit 451. The Historian is a perfect R.I.P. read.

  5. I devoured this one back when I read it, and don’t remember feeling bored ever. But I agree… it is long!

  6. I pretty much agree with your review completely – I thought the first 300 pages or so were great but then it all went downhill from there to destination Snoozeville. I thought so much of the tension in the rest of the novel dissipated because the narrator’s father is purportedly in jeopardy, only this is before she was ever born, so we all know that he’s going to be fine! Moreover, this book has to have the most anticlimactic showdown with Dracula ever.

  7. This is one I have heard a lot of great things about but I just couldn’t get into it. I agree with you, I think it was too dry at times.

  8. I’ve heard great things about this one, but it is such a time-suck at 720 pages that I haven’t been able to bring myself to read it.

  9. One of these days I want to read this one. I think I’d really like the atmosphere and story but goodness the size is a bit daunting isn’t it?! haha…

  10. I’m with you … if you’re going to write a 700+ page book, you need to keep me with you or its going to start feeling like an awful lot of work. Having just read “The Brothers Karamazov,” I can tell you that I feel your pain … but maybe even tenfold more. (That books was TOUGH!)

  11. This was a long book wasn’t it! I linked to your review here.

  12. Sounds interesting. I’ve seen it around and wondered about it. I iike that it has something to do with Vlad the Impaler but I don’t know if I’m up for another chunkster right now. I’ll put it on the back burner 🙂

  13. I have this one on my shelf but another friend who also said it was too ‘research-y’ and thus did not like it has cooled my enthusiasm. But I do expect to read it eventually. FOr me, it’s a book that I *should* read and not get too hung up on if I enjoy it or not! (does that even make sense?)

  14. A friend gave me a copy of this, but I still haven’t read it. I don’t mind reading long books, but they have to move along and be entertaining. It seems that although you didn’t love it, you still didn’t mind reading it, which is good.

  15. I agree that longer books should be a little more exciting/eventful/action-packed/fast storyline than other novels. It’s hard to get through 720 pages of what appears to be someone’s master thesis. Great review!

  16. Oh, no! 😦

    I absolutely loved this book! I got so into it, and was starved for this type of storytelling. It’s told more in a Victorian-esque sweeping manner in which there is a lot of information and events, and some areas can be fairly quietly told. But, I loved that haunting style to it all — feel free to jump onto my readalongs site to post your thoughts to our discussions, too!

    On the Ledge Readalongs

  17. I have looked at this one a bit…. but I am a tad afraid of it ….LOL I have read Elizabeth Kostova before and enjoyed her.

  18. I’d love to listen to this book on audio. Might be easier to take in the aczdemis, research parts. Listened to her other book and loved it.

  19. I’m glad you enjoyed this one, even if not entirely. I really liked the way that at times it felt like conducting academic research rather than reading a novel, which I think is what puts a lot of people off.

  20. A long book, thanks! for sharing.

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