Review : The Historian

December 3, 2012
Author: Elizabeth Kostova
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Year: 2005
ISBN: 9780316011778
Rating: ★★★★☆
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Inspired from Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, Elizabeth Kostova’s debut novel merges history and fiction to leave us with a compelling and exciting historical thriller. Kostova constantly quotes from Stoker’s novel and her characters keep referring to it from time to time. Even the Dracula (who she has portrayed as an intellectual, scholar and historian) in her novel owns a copy of Dracula. But The Historian is not about Dracula like Stoker’s Dracula was. Her novel is about a historian’s quest for truth and the character of Dracula makes only a brief, albeit important appearance in it.

The legend of Dracula has its roots in 15th century Eastern European history. Vlad Tepes- popularly known as Vlad the Impaler- was the ruler of the Kingdom of Wallachia (today a part of Romania) and spent his life defending his Kingdom from the Islamic Ottoman Turks who were strengthening their position in Christendom after capturing Constantinople in 1453. He was also a pitiless and barbaric ruler who enjoyed torturing his subjects and prisoners and often used a variety of methods for the same. Such was the impact of his cruelty, that even after his death he lives on through the legends of the bloodsucking Dracula.

The nameless narrator of our novel recounts her experiences and adventures with history as a young girl. She recollects how she had, while studying in her father’s study, found a strange old book and some yellowing papers. When she asks her father about it, he tells her the bizarre way in which he himself had stumbled upon the book while he was in college and how while pursuing the reality of that book, he inadvertently found himself on the path of Vlad the Impaler’s history and the legend of Dracula. Through letters and her father’s oral narration, she begins to learn the truth about Dracula and when her father suddenly disappears, it is upto her to complete the task that her father had left incomplete all those years ago. Elizabeth Kostova employs the great power of history and folklore and combines it with her powerful narration to give us a novel that is replete with suspense, mystery and excitement.

One of the best things about the The Historian is how Kostova takes us on a wonderful tour of Europe along with the characters. We visit England, France, Slovenia, Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria and the Netherlands. The characters encounter some fantastic people all along and have some fascinating adventures and this ensures that at no point of time, we feel like we are reading a horror novel or a dark story. To make vampirism believable is quite a tough task, but Kostova draws us into the story so effectively that she manages to make the legend of Dracula seem real. Read it, for it is different from all your usual vampire tales, and it will provide you 642 pages of pure adventure.

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