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The Historian Hardcover – 30 Jun 2005

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown; First UK Edition, First Printing edition (30 Jun. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316730319
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316730310
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 16 x 4.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (421 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 152,085 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Some stories can be told again in endlessly different ways. Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian combines a search for the historical Dracula with a profound sense that Stoker got some things right--that the late Mediaeval tyrant kills among us yet, undead and dangerous. From Stoker, she also takes a sense that the supernatural seems more real when embedded in documentary evidence.

Three generations search for Dracula's resting place, and their stories are nested within each other, so that we know that at least two quests ended badly. Kostova rations her thrills very carefully so that we jump out of our chair at quite slight surprises, especially when we have come to expect buckets of blood and loud bangs. She also has a profound and well-communicated sense of place and period, so that the book is equally at home in 1930s Rumania, Cold War Budapest and 1970s Oxford. Kostova is particularly good on the sights and sounds of remote country places and the taste of real peasant food--this sensuous realism does not always go with her other skill, the creation of imagined documents and folksongs that feel as real and true as what might be actual.

This is a quietly good book rather than a spectacular debut, with some uncomfortable twists in its tail; her heroine-narrators are, and perhaps remain, in the most serious of jeopardies. ---Roz Kaveney


This literary thriller is a page-turner with brains (DAILY MAIL)

THE HISTORIAN amounts to something profound. . . and wondrously mathematical at times, a genre novel by Bach . . . We encounter obsession, possession, and the struggle against the brevity of life. It is an exploration of the eternal desire for intimacy. (THE TIMES)

The Historian is great fun. . . told with a compelling intensity which will keep the reader hooked until the last Undead tomb door swings shut (SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)

A gasp-inducing, breathtakingly dark mystery set in the present but wrapped around the folklore and history of Dracula...written in an exquisitely delicate and reserved style' GOOD HOUSEKEEPING ('Filled with fascinating details of archaic vampire lore, the splendours of the Ottoman Empire and the beauty of the Romanian countryside')

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 65 people found the following review helpful By scrambled egg on 24 Aug. 2006
Format: Paperback
This book was a gift from a friend and I wasn't sure if it would live up to the great reviews. However it is a very intelligently written book and had a good blend of action, beautiful description which could come from a travel writer as well, as well as many classic story telling techniques and a lot of informative historical info. The story unfolds through a series of letters, written and spoken accounts. This is in the best tradition of the Gothic Novel and the stories within stories are easy to keep track of - so I didn't find this technique difficult to follow or understand the chronology of. I know some reviewers rubbished this way of writing but as it is a particular structural technique used in many classics I think it would appeal to people who have enjoyed the original Bram Stoker Classic Dracula as well as people who have studied a little literature or horror. If you like a straight chonological / 100% action read, then you might struggle with enjoyment of this structure. The content of the book is extremely varied and has something for everyone - there are scary vampires ( as well as a great Dracula) and vampire law, there is action, a surprisingly well written love story, there are amazing, atmospheric descriptions of places in Eastern and Southern Europe complete with really detailed and accurate historical referencing. I learned a lot about the history of medaeival as well as twentieth century Europe from reading this. In other places you can actually smell the food and hear the sounds described. For Dracular fans, his character is explored both as a historical figure and as the scary hollywood style vampire we've all come to know. Anyone who loves books, literature, travelling, libraries, history, gothic novels and vampire legends through the ages should really like this book.Read more ›
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By J. Veness on 12 May 2009
Format: Paperback
I approached this novel with great anticipation and thoroughly enjoyed it until the last third. Sadly, I began to loose interest in completing the book. It seems that there is only so long one can put up with chasing paper trails. Then there is the yawningly obvious ending. Could do better. This book tries so hard to be good with the mystery and vampiric plots (which I so often enjoy) but somehow fails to deliver. One gets the impression that the first chunks of the book came easily to the author, but the end was rushed and clumsily fabricated.
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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 19 July 2005
Format: Hardcover
Vampire fiction has definitely been on a downslide for many years. Most vamps are now either goofy, ugly bloodsuckers or sultry lace-and-velvet sophisticates. But in "The Historian," Elizabeth Kostova creates the smartest vampire novel in many years. It may drag at times, but it has a wealth of historical detail and creepy atmosphere.

It begins in 1972, with a young girl exploring her father's library. On a high shelf, she finds a strange book with a dragon on it, and a packet of old letters from 1930, that begin with, "My dear and unfortunate successor, it is with regret that I imagine you, whoever you are, reading this account I must put down here...". When she asks her father about it, he reluctantly tells her a strange story from decades before.

In his youth, her dad was an enthusiastic scholar. But all that changed when he learned from a mysteriously vanished teacher that an ancient tyrant was mysteriously still alive -- Vlad Tepes, the basis for the vampire Dracula. Now in the rational 20th century, gruesome deaths and ancient clues lead the young woman across the world. She must figure out whether Vlad Drakula is dead, or undead.

In a sense, "The Historian" really doesn't belong in the twenty-first (or even the twentieth) century. It's all set in the early 1970s, but it feels more like Kostova is writing in a 19th century setting, with the slow pace, verbal formality and intense detail typical of older books. In other words, don't expect fountains of gore or plenty of vampire cameos.

"The Historian" does have a tendency to drag, with Kostova focusing on some of the more mundane details of the heroine's life. There's much wandering from monasteries to mosques, dusty libraries to campuses. Some of it adds to the plot, and some of it doesn't.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca on 11 Dec. 2010
Format: Paperback
It took me the better part of three weeks to complete this 642-page novel - that, I believe, is the longest it has ever taken me to complete a book that I was reading strictly for pleasure. Not that this is, necessarily, a bad thing, that is just to say it is not a "light" reading.

As a reader, did I enjoy it? Well...yes, I think so, but I'm still debating myself in just how much; either I found it rather mediocre, or utterly brilliant, I just haven't settled on which..
The storylines contain all of my favorite fictional elements - suspense, mystery, historical bits, Dracula lore, a wonderful story concept, and well-defined, interesting characters...
The story begins in 1972 Amsterdam, when a teenage girl discovers a medieval book and some old letters in her father's library. The book pages are empty, save an intricate woodcarving of a dragon and the word "DRACULYA" in its center pages; the letters are addressed "to my dear and unfortunate successor,". When she confronts her father, Paul, about these, he confesses to a search, some twenty years previous, for his graduate school mentor who disappeared from his office only moments after confiding to Paul his certainty that Dracula - Vlad the Impaler - was still alive. Paul's collaborator in this 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. Shortly after revealing all this, Paul, leaving only a brief note, disappears also.
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