Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Book 37: The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova

This first novel from Elizabeth Kostova had been much touted in advance of its recent release. Not only was it picked up for theatrical adaptation by Sony, but countless reviews remarked on how well the book worked in its crafting of a vampire story. Since I've generally been a pretty big fan of horror novels and vampire stuff in particular, I was eagerly anticipating the day that this book would arrive on my doorstep, as I pre-ordered it with birthday money.

Sadly, the book in no way lived up to my hopes or even the slightest of my expectations.

I saw a couple of reviews that made note of the fact that The Historian is over-long, and the one in Entertainment Weekly actually remarked that the book was rather boring, particularly given that a story about vampires has no excuse for being dull. I figured that maybe these books were just minority opinions, and hoped that The Historian might be something like 2004's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, where despite the book's length, it was a pleasure to read each and every word - even the everlasting footnotes. Instead, The Historian was just deadly dull, and I found it a chore to read.

By around page 150, when literally nothing had happened yet, I started to worry and wondered if maybe I should just give up on the book. I hate doing that with books, though, and since the book was a gigantic 642 pages long, I was hoping that maybe things would pick up if I gave it another chance. I now wish I'd gone with that first impression, because it was another long week and some days before I could struggle through.

The book is advertised as a sort of historian's search and encounter with the Dracula legend, and I guess that's truthful to a degree. The final 100 pages do in fact pick up some in pace and there is probably an intriguing story in there somewhere. To get to that point, the reader must wade through pages upon pages of dull exposition and travelogue. The characters are not all that well-developed, with one exception (Helen), so it becomes increasingly difficult to care about their plight as the story moves along.

I do think that Kostova has a talent for language, and her love of books, history and locations is quite evident. I was just expecting something more engaging and while it didn't *have* to be action-packed, it would have been nice if anything…had…happened…at…all.


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