The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (fiction)
Hardcover: 656 pages
ďThis is the story of how as a girl of sixteen I went in search of my father and his past, and of how he went in search of his beloved mentor and his mentorís own history, and of how we all found ourselves on one of the darkest pathways into history.Ē
The name "Helen" is used 913 times in The Historian
Written from the shifting points of view, The Historian is often difficult to follow. It is about Paulís past search for his mentor, who had gone missing, and his daughterís current search for him, as he searches for his wife. The whole time, everyone is searching for Vlad the Impaler, or Dracula, who they believe is still alive. The readers themselves are searching for a reason to continue reading such a confusing and lengthy book. The only reason this reader could find was the interesting history behind Dracula.
The book starts off with Paulís daughter (whose name cannot be easily found, if itís even in the book at all) discovering a book Paul had received while in college. Itís an odd book, full of blank pages except for the very middle, where there is a picture of a dragon holding a banner with the name Drakulya written on it.
When asked about it, Paul tells the story of how he ďreceivedĒ it. Then he tells of how he showed it to his mentor, Professor Rossi, who just happened to have also found a similar book. After receiving his book, Rossi had researched Dracula, and he passed this information down to Paul. After Paul left, Rossi was kidnapped by Dracula so that he could catalogue Draculaís huge library of ancient texts. Paul went out looking for Dracula, knowing that he had Rossi. He was accompanied by Rossiís daughter, Helen, who he ends up marrying. Paul tells his daughter about his and Helenís search for Rossi in several countries. They do eventually find him, but must kill him because he is almost a vampire himself. (He is almost a vampire because, to become a vampire one must be bitten three times or have died after being bitten at least once, and Rossi had only been bitten twice.)
After this adventure, Paul and Helen marry and have their daughter, and then Helen ran away because, during their search for Dracula, she had been bitten twice, and believed that she was tainted and didnít deserve to have a daughter. She went off to find Dracula and kill him so she could be worthy of her daughter.
In the middle of recounting his story, Paul goes off searching for Helen, leaving the rest of his story in a bundle of letters for his daughter. He leaves her in the care of Barley, thinking that they wonít discover where heís gone and follow him. Of course, they do, and they meet up with him at a monastery where Dracula is supposed to show up. He does, leading to a show-down that the reader has been tolerantly waiting for for over six hundred pages. Sadly, the showdown isnít all that great, and the built-up suspense slowly leaks out of the reader like the air escaping a balloon. It definitely isnít the kind of climax that would burst the balloon, like so many readers desire. It then continues to drag on for another twenty frustrating pages in which the author ties up loose ends, but fails to end the book with any of the much-needed excitement or mystery required to save the reader from the overwhelming desire to take a nap.
Like I previously mentioned, the only good thing about this book is the history of Dracula. Kostova definitely kept me reading the book so I could find out more about this character that is so unlike Bram Stokerís made-up vampire. I believe that if Kostova had written it from one personís point of view as they discovered everything, it would have been a much more interesting read. All of the shifting between characters was way too confusing, and she wasnít able to recapture my attention once the shift had taken place. The book isnít a complete failure, though. It is very well researched, and once I stopped paying attention to who was doing what and when, I found myself actually kind of interested in what was happening.
As much as I would love to say that this is yet another must-read, I regret to inform you that, unless you are a serious reader looking for a challenge, or are interested in the history of Dracula, this is just not a good book.