I really enjoyed listening to The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. It was over 11 hours long and very engaging, so I couldn’t help but get pretty into it. Plus, the reading was spectacular, comparatively at least. There were nearly 10 readers I think. I was afraid that might be too much, but it was great. There were a lot of characters and because the protagonists traveled all over the world, they had all these wonderfully done accents.
It was a Dracula story with a heavily historical approach. The premise was that prominent international historians throughout time were left a mysterious book of all blank pages save a large woodcut of a dragon in the middle and the word from which dragon comes, “Drakulya”. Each historian would then find him or herself dangerously obsessed with the odd, nagging book, and each would solve a small part of the puzzle.
The book begins in 1972 when a 16-year-old girl discovers her father’s strange book with a stack of letters addressed to “My Dear Unfortunate Successor.” The girl prods her father into slowly telling her the story of his college advisor in the history department, Dr. Rossi, who authored the letters. He had also found a copy of this bizarre book, researched the historic Dracula – Vlad the Impaler, an inventively cruel ruler of Wallachia in the mid-15th century – and came to the terrifying conclusion that this evil man became a vampire and was still living.
Even though this was twenty years ago, the girl’s father, Paul, lives in such fear that it takes years for him to relay all of the facts. Finally, she learns that Dr. Rossi had gone missing, and her father set out on a long journey to find him. But shy of revealing what he himself discovered and how her long-dead mother was involved, Paul disappears as well.
Luckily, the daughter finds a stash of letters he has left telling the rest of the story “just in case” and she sets off to find him.
The book is constructed in an interesting way. It starts from the perspective of the grown daughter, now a historian herself, writing that she feels she must share this story. Even though you know it is a work of fiction, it gives you that cool creepy feeling that it might be true. Like the beginning of Memoirs of a Geisha. But as the book progresses, it shifts perspectives. This is where it was neat to have the different actors/readers portraying Dr. Rossi’s experiences, and her dad’s and her own. Without the vocal changes, I might not have been able to follow these shifts. Although, I’m sure it is made clear in some other way in the book.
Being a historical fiction buff, I enjoyed how the characters had to mire themselves in research in libraries, piecing together ancient texts and folk songs, and finding the present truth by making history real. And the travel from Amsterdam to Istanbul, to Bulgaria and France… It made it even more interesting and fun.
I’ve read Interview with a Vampire, but otherwise, I’ve not been much into vampires or any horror things really. But I really enjoyed this book and I recommend it. I saw on an Amazon review that this was Kostova’s first book and it’s made a big entrance. Now she just has to follow-up. I for one, hope she can.