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The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The Historian (2005)

by Elizabeth Kostova

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
17,136673102 (3.68)4 / 643
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    GodOfTheAnthill: Both mystery novels with a similar tone and atmosphere
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    clamairy: Similar themes of magic and academia.
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    Freedom and Necessity by Steven Brust (tessac)
    tessac: Freedom & Necessity is epistolic in nature so if that appealed to you in The Historian, I heartily recommend F & N. There are no vampires but, like The Historian, the fantastical is subtly woven into the story.
  8. 51
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    Joles: Both of these books share a great deal of research and they keep you speeding through one chapter to the next. Oh...and they both have Dracula....
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    Dracula, My Love: The Secret Journals of Mina Harker by Syrie James (Joles)
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  17. 10
    Lord of the Dead by Tom Holland (QueenOfDenmark)
    QueenOfDenmark: I've just started reading The Vampyre but right from the start it put me in mind of Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian. Lord Byron is used as the main character in Tom Holland's The Vampyre to interesting effect while count Dracula is the more traditional vampire hero in Kostova's Historian.… (more)
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(see all 22 recommendations)


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English (652)  Spanish (6)  German (3)  Dutch (3)  Swedish (2)  Danish (2)  Norwegian (1)  Portuguese (1)  Italian (1)  All (671)
Showing 1-5 of 652 (next | show all)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, much to my surprise. If the synopsis on the back of the CD had said anything about Dracula and a search for his tomb, I would have put it down and missed out on some great entertainment. I highly recommend listening to this book rather than reading it, because there are 8 readers, if my recollection is right, and they are all super. Many voices, accents, dialects. It makes the story come alive.

Historians are looking for the tomb of Dracula for various reasons, and studying the history of the period. Vlad Dracula really did exist in the 1400s and was unspeakably cruel. The author of the first Dracula book made him into a vampire, which he wasn't in life, unless you believe in that sort of thing.

Although the book is fiction, it seems to draw some from actual history and the author makes it all sound authenic. I don't read books about vampires, and this wasn't so much about those as about the people searching and their lives and reasons for things they did.

It's a good read for anyone and wasn't horror, which I don't read. Like many popular stories today, it was an escape, slightly from reality, but most of the book was about people, not vampires. I found the details fascinating. ( )
  Rascalstar | Jan 21, 2017 |
I made it to page 64 and had to stop. Skimmed the rest to find out this was not the book for me. So boring and too much history. Although I love Dracula and vampire stories, this one did not pull me enough to stick out with the 600+ pages. Not my cup of tea.
  booklover3258 | Jan 10, 2017 |
great Novel @ history + Dracula — from England, US to Istanbul, Bulgaria, Romania
Woven together unusually — mother — lost — daughter goes after father —

Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters addressed ominously to ‘My dear and unfortunate successor’. Her discovery plunges 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 evil hidden in the depths of history.
  christinejoseph | Dec 20, 2016 |
As how I don't usually enjoy this genre, I was pleasantly surprised. Well written, good characters, ending was a bit contrived, but all in all an enjoyable read. ( )
  busterrll | Dec 19, 2016 |
If you've seen my updates, you'll probably remember that I was pretty excited about this book back at the beginning. Unfortunately, that excitement didn't continue through to the end.

This book was 704 pages long.

The story was probably worthy of 50% of that length.

It had its positives - the writing is elegant and Kostova does a good job with the gothic atmosphere being created. I enjoy [some] descriptive passages, and this book had some good ones.

The problem is that the author was telling a story, within a story, within a story. The primary narrator, Eva, is the daughter of Helen and Paul, who are the subject of the level 2 story. Helen is the daughter of Bartholomew Rossi and Helen's mother, a Bulgarian (or possibly Hungarian or Romanian) peasant whom Rossi has met on his travels. Rossi's story is the Level 3 narrative. All three of these individuals are searching for information about Dracula.

So, to put it mildly, there are a lot of narrative changes to keep track of - we go from 1970's (Eva's narrative) to 1950's (Paul's narrative) to 1930's (Rossi's narrative). Much of the story is told as retrospective - as though Paul is telling the story to Eva, and we get two levels of hearsay, when Paul is telling Eva what he has previously been told by Rossi. These narrative changes are unmarked, and occasionally it takes a few moments to figure out where we are in the story line.

I gather from my research that Kostova was attempting to write a novel in the style of a Victorian sensation novel, along the lines of Wilkie Collin's "The Moonstone." She uses some of the same epistolary style that Collins used in his story telling. Unfortunately, I think she over did it, and she spent so much energy on her gimmick that she sort of forgot to tell her story. The ending, in particular, was clumsy and ineffective.

So, would I recommend it? Honestly, I would not. It simply takes too damned long to get to the destination, although the scenery on the trip is quite dramatic and beautiful. ( )
  moonlight_reads | Dec 11, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 652 (next | show all)
Vlad Lit: don't flirt with it, just sink your teeth right in
When, after many other allusions to historians and historicism, Kostova introduced a character whose last name is Hristova, I was tempted to run out to a pharmacy for some antihristomine.

What's unfortunate about this overload is that the book -- which seems to want to do for historians what ''Possession'' did for literary scholars -- is otherwise the kind of wonderfully paced yarn that would make a suitable companion to a deck chair, a patch of sun and some socklessness.
In a ponderous, many-layered book that is exquisitely versed in the art of stalling, Ms. Kostova steeps her readers in Dracula lore. She visits many libraries, monasteries, relics of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, crypts, restaurants, scholars and folk-song-singing peasants. Every now and then a mysterious pale, sinister figure will materialize, only to vanish bewilderingly. The book's characters find this a lot more baffling than readers will.
Stuffed with rich, incense-laden cultural history and travelogue, The Historian is a smart, bibliophilic mystery in the same vein (sorry) as A.S. Byatt's Possession--but without all that poetry.
added by Shortride | editTime, Lev Grossman (Jun 12, 2005)

» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Elizabeth Kostovaprimary authorall editionscalculated
Eyre, JustineNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Michael, PaulNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ram, TitiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schroderus, ArtoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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How these papers have been placed in sequence will be
made manifest in the reading of them. All needless matters have
been eliminated, so that a history almost at variance with the
possibilities of later-day belief may stand forth as simple fact.
There is throughout no statement of past things wherein memory
may err, for all the records chosen are exactly contemporary,
given from the stand-points and within the range
of knowledge of those who made them.

     —Bram Stoker, Dracula, 1897
What sort of place had I come to, and among what kind of
people? What sort of grim adventure was it on which I had
embarked? . . . I began to rub my eyes and pinch myself to see if
I were awake. It all seemed like a horrible nightmare to me, and I
expected that I should suddenly awake, and find myself at home,
with the dawn struggling in through the windows, as I had now
and again felt in the morning after a day of overwork. But my
flesh answered the pinching test, and my eyes were not to be
deceived. I was indeed awake and among the Carpathians. All
I could do now was to be patient, and to wait the coming
of the morning.

—Bram Stoker, Dracula,1897
There was one great tomb more lordly than all the rest; huge it was,
and nobly proportioned. On it was but one word,


     —Bram Stoker, Dracula, 1897.
For my father,
who first told me
some of these stories
First words
A Note To The Reader

The story that follows is one I never intended to commit to paper.
In 1972 I was sixteen—young, my father said, to be traveling with him on his diplomatic missions.
"To you, perceptive reader, I bequeath my history . . ."
"My dear and unfortunate successor . . ."
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Please do not combine with any abridged editions of The Historian.
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Late one night, exploring her father's library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters addressed ominously to 'My dear and unfortunate successor'. Her discovery plunges 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 evil hidden in the depths of history. In those few quiet moments, she unwittingly assumes a quest she will discover is her birthright - a hunt for the truth about Vlad the Impaler, the medieval ruler whose barbarous reign formed the basis of the Dracula myth. Deciphering obscure signs and hidden texts, reading codes worked into the fabric of medieval monastic traditions, and evading terrifying adversaries, one woman comes ever closer to the secret of her own past and a confrontation with the very definition of evil.

AR 7.3, 42 Pts
Haiku summary
Dracula - alive!
But where to find him today?
Family's search for truth

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0316011770, Hardcover)

If your pulse flutters at the thought of castle ruins and descents into crypts by moonlight, you will savor every creepy page of Elizabeth Kostova's long but beautifully structured thriller The Historian. The story opens in Amsterdam in 1972, when a teenage girl discovers a medieval book and a cache of yellowed letters in her diplomat father's library. The pages of the book are empty except for a woodcut of a dragon. The letters are addressed to: "My dear and unfortunate successor." When the girl confronts her father, he reluctantly confesses an unsettling story: his involvement, twenty years earlier, in a search for his graduate school mentor, who disappeared from his office only moments after confiding to Paul his certainty that Dracula--Vlad the Impaler, an inventively cruel ruler of Wallachia in the mid-15th century--was still alive. The story turns out to concern our narrator directly because Paul's collaborator in the search was a fellow student named Helen Rossi (the unacknowledged daughter of his mentor) and our narrator's long-dead mother, about whom she knows almost nothing. And then her father, leaving just a note, disappears also.

As well as numerous settings, both in and out of the East Bloc, Kostova has three basic story lines to keep straight--one from 1930, when Professor Bartolomew Rossi begins his dangerous research into Dracula, one from 1950, when Professor Rossi's student Paul takes up the scent, and the main narrative from 1972. The criss-crossing story lines mirror the political advances, retreats, triumphs, and losses that shaped Dracula's beleaguered homeland--sometimes with the Byzantines on top, sometimes the Ottomans, sometimes the rag-tag local tribes, or the Orthodox church, and sometimes a fresh conqueror like the Soviet Union.

Although the book is appropriately suspenseful and a delight to read--even the minor characters are distinctive and vividly seen--its most powerful moments are those that describe real horrors. Our narrator recalls that after reading descriptions of Vlad burning young boys or impaling "a large family," she tried to forget the words: "For all his attention to my historical education, my father had neglected to tell me this: history's terrible moments were real. I understand now, decades later, that he could never have told me. Only history itself can convince you of such a truth." The reader, although given a satisfying ending, gets a strong enough dose of European history to temper the usual comforts of the closing words. --Regina Marler

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:22 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

A young woman finds old papers which begin to reveal an ancient and evil plot concerning Vlad the Impaler and the legend of Dracula, which may still be continuing.

» see all 9 descriptions

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Average: (3.68)
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