Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Book Review of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

In 1972 I was sixteen - young, my father said, to be traveling with him on his diplomatic missions. He preferred to know that I was sitting attentively in class at the International School of Amsterdam; in those days his foundation was based in Amsterdam, and it had been my home for so long that I had nearly forgotten our early life in the United States. It seems peculiar to me now that I should have been so obedient well into my teens, while the rest of my generation was experimenting with drugs and protesting the imperialist war in Vietnam, bu I had been raised in a world so sheltered that it makes my adult life in academia look positively adventurous.
- The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The HistorianThe tale of The Historian is told by a sixteen year old girl raised as a privileged and protected diplomat's daughter. As she accompanies her father on his research and diplomatic missions through Europe, we learn that her father has a dark and painful secret that is somehow tied to the myth of the vampire Drakula or Vlad Tepes of Wallachia and the disappearance of his beloved advisor Professor Rossi.

As she tries to coax the story from him, the book shifts perspective and we read of his adventures from his own voice. Occasionally, the story of the search for Drakula is told through the voice of Oxford professor Rossi. Through carefully woven narratives from these three characters and from the letters and journal entries, we are taken into a dark and mysterious world where a centuries old evil continues to reign.

As the journey takes us from the libraries of Oxford, America, and Constantinople to remote towns in Hungary and Eastern Europe in search for the missing Professor Rossi, the story becomes one of courage, friendship, and a long abiding love.

Suspenseful and carefully crafted, The Historian evokes the leisurely prose of classics of the genre. An unusual read, I am very much looking forward to Elizabeth Kostova's next novel, The Swan Thieves, which comes out in January 2010.

Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (September 1, 2009), 720 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author, courtesy of Amazon:
Elizabeth Kostova's engrossing debut novel is the culmination of ten years of research and a lifetime of imagining--since Kostova's girlhood, when her father entertained her with tales of Dracula, she has envisioned the story that would become The Historian. With her academic spirit and extraordinary talent, she's spun an intricate tale of sprawling mystery and suspense. Kostova graduated from Yale and holds an MFA from the University of Michigan, where she won the Hopwood Award for the Novel-in-Progress.

Thank you so much to Miriam, Valerie, and Hatchette Book Group for this review opportunity!


  1. I really enjoyed The Historian as well and am looking forward to cracking open Swan Thieves as soon as it arrives in the mail.

  2. I loved this book! I can't wait for her next one!!

  3. I was so disappointed by the ending of this one! It had pulled me along so wonderfully but after all of that, really?

  4. I have to admit that I never read a Vampire story before. The horror genre is usually too creepy for my overactive imagination.