Rolling Review: “The Historian” – Elizabeth Kostova (Part I)

March 29, 2006

I had, at first, been reluctant to pick this book up, inundated as I was with all the marketing and buzz surrounding it. The last time I had felt like this about a novel, was with "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel" by Susanna Clarke, and I was thoroughly disappointed after buying it. But on the insistence of a friend who had read this behemoth of a novel in a single sitting, I finally got myself to my favourite Indigo bookstore and picked it up.

Reading this book reminded me how differently a novel reads depending on how much importance you give to it. It made me think of the first time I read "The Lord of the Rings" . The edition I had bought contained the entire trilogy within it, costing a full five hundred rupees, an enormous sum for me at the time. I was so excited when I got home, confessing to my mother about spending so much in one go, at the same time convincing her that it was worth it. My previous reading of "The Hobbit" had conditioned me to anticipate one hell of an adventure story (I didn't really appreciate the fantasy aspects at the time), and the sheer weight of expectation regarding the trilogy (along with its own considerable charms) lended to it a central place in my mind for many years to come, and made it one of my favourite books of all time.

And so when I began reading "The Historian", hyped as it had been by my friend whose judgement I trusted implicitly, I opened to the first page with respectful reverance and trembling anticipation. I reminded myself to savour every carefully chosen word, to fully realize every scene of colourfully described imagery, and above all, to enjoy the novel as its author intended: by noticing and enjoying every detail. I have been obsessed of late, with the number of books I read, quantifying and recording this year's readings rather than focusing on getting the most out of them; I am now determinded to change that.

I admit then, that perhaps this book impacted me more than it would have usually done. But despite even that, it is a compelling read. The author wastes no time getting into the action, the central mystery being revealed within the first few pages. The entralling story of an obscure book that comes into the narrator's father's possession, hooks you into the novel, not allowing for any disctractions. The colourful descriptions of Eastern Europe make the smells and visions of the scenery come alive, the historical yet alien locations lending the tale a certain ominous air. The prospect of encountering the terrifying Drakula is made readily apparent within the first few chapters, giving all further readings a sense of dread anticipation, as we are assured of a coming doom. Yet I am a mere fifty pages into the book, hardly enough to create a complete picture of what I expect to come. Still, I hope to continue reading, and am even more hopeful that I shall continue and complete this review. Till later then, I bid you adieu, and based on my first impressions, encourage you to give this novel the good ol' college try (I always wanted to say that!).

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One Response to “Rolling Review: “The Historian” – Elizabeth Kostova (Part I)”


  1. І constantly spent my half an hour to rеad thіs weblog’s articles or
    reviews every day along wjth a mugg of coffee.


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