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?