The Historian

Over the labor day weekend, I read Elizabeth Kostova’s THE HISTORIAN. Never has Dracula been so dull. It’s a ponderous snooze. The book has been compared to THE DAVINCI CODE  and for good reason. Like DAVINCI, it’s also a series of lectures and speeches, devoid of character. But what DAVINCI had that the HISTORIAN doesn’t is a terrific plot and an utterly compelling mystery that pulls you through the long passages of exposition and history lessons. There’s nothing compelling about THE HISTORIAN.  It’s a six hundred page endurance test leading up to a climax that’s so
flat you might miss it during one of the catnaps you’ll inevitably slip
into while reading. If you’re still curious about this doorstop of a book, have a friend hit you over the head with  it. In those moments of unconsciousness,  you will have the same experience as reading it only with more enjoyment and less lost time.

8 thoughts on “The Historian”

  1. Here’s the latest blurb for The Historian:
    “…compared to The Da Vinci Code, and for good reason … compelling… terrific plot and utterly compelling mystery … you will have the same experience as reading it only with more enjoyment!”
    –Lee Goldberg, author of The Man With The Iron-On badge

  2. I was also disappointed. Who made the choice to leave the dates off the letters? I ended up reading it a chapter a night due to heavy load at work, and I often got lost.
    What amazed me most was a brilliant idea for a plot that pops up at about page 400 or so, and is then never mentioned again. It was far better than the ending the book had. Question: if you “borrow” an idea mentioned in a paragraph of a hundreds of page book, is it stealing?

    I just read the NY Times review. He is SO right (especially the bit about hero and heroine fighting over checking out Oxford’s one copy of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” instead of just going out and BUYING A COPY). But the critic could have been harder on the book. The entire damn thing takes place in libraries. Now that’s drama. Even Dracula turns out to be a librarian whose evil plot is…
    …to find a historian to spend an eternity cataloging his library. I’m not kidding.
    It’s a truly awful book. I don’t know why I even bothered to finish it.

  4. And don’t forget that the author got a 7-figure advance. How sick is that? Does New York publishing whip into a frenzy every time someone claims they took ten years to write a book?

  5. I wasn’t that thrilled by The Historian either. What really got to me — other than the fact that we have a dull vampire novel — is that all of the voices, no matter the gender or the time, sound EXACTLY the same. You couldn’t tell who was narrating the tale simply by reading the text.

  6. Ah, it’s nice to be in the minority — though I’m not sure it would hold up on a reread, I really did adore this book. It’s definitely more old-fashioned, but I think it’s the same reason why people really flocked to THE SHADOW OF THE WIND, which is that it’s all about the intricacy of telling a story.
    More cynically, I think a lot of people who finish reading it feel like they’ve smartened up afterwards, what with it being all about books and the like.


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