BOOK NOTES #8: The Historian

I really enjoyed re-reading Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian. It’s definitely my sort of book: lots of history, a vibrant cast of bibliophilic characters, and many, many delicious descriptions of European cities. And while the central mystery involving Dracula was interesting, I didn’t care that much about it, so much as I enjoyed soaking up the feel of the novel.

Kostova created a very special world in The Historian. From the moment I started reading, I felt pulled into this enchanting place where people travel by trains, and dress with more charm (men in wool sweaters and tweed hats; young girls in berets and crocheted stockings). It’s a world of cocoa and croissants for breakfast, English housekeepers, and carefree picnics in the south of France. But it’s also a scary and unnerving world — a world where menacing vampiric henchmen lurk in the streets, between library shelves, always seeing but unseen themselves; where loved ones mysteriously die without a sound right outside your office door; where fathers disappear; where one is both pursuer and the pursued. It’s a world steeped in the past, a past so thick and substantial that it almost feels alive.

Which ties in perfectly with what I took away from the book after this re-read. The Historian, I’ve realized, is not so much a story about the main characters and the journeys they embark upon, but history itself. As embodied by Dracula and his henchmen, history is a persistent and active force, and not just something of the past — which, by the way, I’ve come to realize, is a relative term because someone’s past is another person’s present and someone else’s future. History is ongoing and relentless. We are living history.

Although I’ve been indirectly told that a blogger should never apologize self-consciously, I’m going to break that unspoken rule and apologize for the brevity of this post. I’m tired. It’s getting late. And this post took way too long to write. I went through at least five different drafts, before I gave up and stuck with the above. I guess that’s the catch when writing about a favorite book, eh?

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2 thoughts on “BOOK NOTES #8: The Historian”

  1. I’m so glad you liked this novel — because about a week ago, I bought it on impulse. I just saw it displayed, there were five minutes to go before the store closed, and I panicked and bought it, haha. I didn’t even know what it was about until I read your post — all I knew that I’d seen it on several blog posts, vaguely remembered that I *felt* I liked this book. I’m looking forward to reading this very much.

    No worries about the post, no worries about the apologies. Blogging has been difficult for me lately, and I feel your pain. Especially about them favorite books, those good books. I run out of adjectives for “awesome” too many times to count. :}

    1. You chose well! This book is pretty amazing, and I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

      Thanks, Sasha. :) Sorry to hear blogging has been a bit difficult for you too. Hope that turns around soon. And about favorite books — I know! It’s horrible, isn’t it? And terribly ironic. Favorite books should be the easiest to write about because we feel so strongly towards them. And yet because we feel so strongly towards them, we end up tripping over our own jumbled thoughts. Reminds me of a line from Jane Austen’s Emma: “Perhaps if I loved you less I could talk about it more.”

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