Friday, December 08, 2006

The Historian Review

The Historian is a novel about Dracula, vampires, and strange Cold War-era locations. It sounds really creepy, and Nay stopped reading the story because she felt that it would be too scary. I guess that I will address this early; this is not a scary book. Dracula and the vampire aspects of this story are used more for suspense, rather than scares.

At its core, this book is about the author’s love of history and the searching for answers to problems in the distant past. The way in which the author detailed searching for those little scraps of information hidden for hundreds of years in library collections was fascinating. A few years ago a fellow teacher went to Oxford for a summer exchange program and he came back with all of these pictures of Oxford’s libraries, some of which appear in this book, which are exactly like you would expect. These types of libraries are almost museums to the past, where secrets are still waiting to be discovered. Ultimately, Dracula’s desires in the book have less to do with blood and sex and more to do with ferreting out the secrets of history.

The novel tells the story of a young woman who finds a book in her father’s library. It is an old leather-bound book with a woodcut of a dragon in the middle. There is nothing else in the book. The girl’s father is an American diplomat who travels from country to country mediating international affairs, and in the course of these journeys, she asks him about the book and he begins to tell her the strange story about that book and how it related to his past.

The history of Vlad Dracula is sick and twisted, but intensely interesting and Kostova obviously has a firm grasp of what is known about the Wallachian prince. The mystery of what really happened to Dracula plays into the story’s main ideas. The Historian is a very good novel. It does have some flaws, but as a first novel it is an impressive work. It is too easy to generalize Dracula as a character worthy of a hack like Clive Barker or Anne Rice, but The Historian shows that vampires can be the basis of a more mature work as well.

According to reports The Historian was optioned as a movie, which I can only hope avoids the pratfalls of most literary adaptations. I would hate to see this turned into another Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula. I enjoyed the book and am interested to see what Elizabeth Kostovoa writes next.


themo said...

I'm a little distracted by all the Kate pics. Should I be concerned? Am I about to be dumped for that fatty?

Homer said...

Ha! You always claimed that this site would be full of boobs, so I'm just trying to live up (or down) to that expectation.