The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
So, I’m a romantic sucker. I don’t like it, but it’s true, I just have too keep my urges back a bit, that’s all. Given that, it should come as no surprise that I liked this book a lot. But there are other reasons as well, so bear with me.
Kostova seems a born storyteller. The first half of this book is probably the best letter/diary form of writing I’ve ever read. It completely hooked me from page one. It spaces out the mystery nicely. And gives us some very nice characters.
This book also sparked my interest in history again. I hope it lasts. Kostova lays it out in such a splendor and intimate fashion that I felt shallow for my own lack of knowledge. I’ve traveled large parts of Europe, but I’ve never before appreciated the "depth" of the place. When the characters moves through Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary, describing the ebb and tide of the Byzantine Empire. I was left with a longing feeling that I wanted to know more. High praise? You bet.
So what then keeps this book from score I fiver? Well, vampires mostly. I’ve always felt them to be rather hard creatures to pin down, especially as you always have to deal with the backlog of more or less successful attempts, and the towering shadow of Stoker. Also, I was very sure that there wouldn’t be a show-down, simply because it would have suited the book and the story. So when it came, it disappointed my by appearing in the first place, and felt abrupt and shallow.
The boyfriend is a waste as well, and disappointed me as well. He’s not actually doing anything. He’s just tagging along, as if somehow show us that a mere girl of, what, 15 or 16 years couldn’t possibly do it without a man at her side. Really? With that mother? Somehow it left me wanting.
As some other reviewers have pointed out, the second half of the book drags a little bit, and the coincidences tend to glare. Just one too many, OK?
So there it is. A really good book. It is not a horror story as much as a travelogue and mystery novel. But it’s the reason I’m now reading the Penguin History of Europe, so what can I say? I liked it.
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