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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  • 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

    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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