The Historian

the historian

I just finished The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova. It’s an adventure/horror novel, about 650 pages long, and brilliantly written.  The book basically picks up the story of Dracula, assuming the vampire is alive and well and rampaging through Cold War Europe. It’s incredibly descriptive, makes you feel like you’re traveling across the world, and very detailed and researched. And also, you get to watch vampire chases and gun fights in the street. Is it awesome? Yes. I would give it about 5 stars, up until about page 580.

(Spoiler alert! If you don’t want to ruin it, you can skip the next 3 paragraphs.)

And then there’s this chapter that just threw me for a loop and a half. You reach this glorious climax,where Dracula finally shows himself in all his undead splendor, kidnaps a guy, and then… compels him to catalog Dracula’s personal library. Because he’s going to move it, and he wants to make sure he doesn’t lose any books. Muah ha ha.

Wait, what?

It picks up from there, don’t worry. I mean, I’d say the book overall, without that chapter, would be a 5 star novel. That chapter: 2 stars. The whole book, including the chapter: still 4 stars. It’s a great book. I just kind of lost some sense of horror when I realized that Dracula’s driving impulse for about the previous 500 pages was that of a bloodthirsty bibliophile.

Overall, I’d recommend the book to anyone willing to read 650 pages of descriptive narrative. It’s a great story, only slightly injured by my complete inability to find librarians terrifying. And as a somewhat squeamish reader, I’d like to note that in nearly 700 pages, there are only about 3-5 swear words, only implied (not explicit) sex, and only about as much violence as Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In fact, next to the original Dracula, it’s the best vampire story I’ve ever encountered. It’s the best book I’ve read this year, thus far. So if you want to be creeped out – while feeling like you’re being given a tour of Europe at the same time – pick up The Historian. It’s a good read. ♦

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