Townhouse Books

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Historian: Elizabeth Kostova

It's mere minutes before they make this book into a movie. It will have to be told in a lot of flashbacks, but I already know I'll see it.

Because this is a good book and because it's about vampires, there's a very strong chance that people on this blog will read it. As a result, I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll keep my review brief and vague and we can discuss in more detail later.

This book is told as a story within a story within a story. A good 200 pages of it is an entire mini-novel consisting of one character's letters to another.

Things I liked: it is suspenseful, it is a good mystery and you struggle to make note of tons of information that will come in handy as you read further; learning about the history of the Ottoman Empire and Eastern Europe -- the book is, I think, superbly researched; she doesn't shy away from the gruesome.

Things I didn't like: the multi-story technique, all moving toward the same ending, is a bit contrived; having to remember a ton of false history that is only going to get in the way of real information in my head; she is not a great writer -- there are no sentences you stop and revel in or read aloud just to feel the words in your mouth.

But, that said, she is one heck of a storyteller. Enjoy.


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5 Comments:

  • I wonder how much longer I will have to wait for the Jacksonville Public Library to loan me this book. Last time I checked I was 57th on the list. I heard the author on NPR and the book sounded pretty interesting. What do you think of the "first book a bestseller" phenomenon? Your review sounds like she is better on the imagination front than the language front...

    By Anna, at 3:55 PM  

  • No writer wants to become a one-hit-author. Jeffrey Eugenides was so terrified of following-up the Virgin Suicides with crap that he was paralyzed for a while and it took him nine years to publish Middlesex. (That was in a New Yorker writer's block article you probably read). I imagine it puts an inordinate amount of pressure on writers to find their fame before they perhaps find their groove.

    By evt1618, at 10:03 AM  

  • Yeah, didn't Donna Tartt take a while to publish after The Secret History?

    Hmmm. Random thought: I feel like giant-hype-first-hit musicians aren't an exact analogue. The one-hit-wonder is more of an... established, even if not respected thing in music.

    By lillygog, at 10:00 AM  

  • ABC 20/20 last night 08/26/05
    On the Trail of Dracula
    Elizabeth Vargas Traces the Historical Roots of Bram Stoker's Legendary Character

    http://abcnews.go.com/2020/Entertainment/story?id=1067793&page=1

    In depth interview with the author. Apparently she never visited Transylvania during the 10 years it took her to write the book. ABC took her to visit Vlad's grave on a remote island monastery.

    Pretty exciting stuff. I watched it during Brewers/Braves commercials.

    By Jason, at 3:11 PM  

  • I actually liked the "primary source" method of storytelling. Solves the "and my father told me later that his mentor told him that..." problem. When I finally got my library copy it was Large Print and 1200 pages.

    By Anna, at 7:08 AM  

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