Monday 9 November 2015

Book Review: The Historian; Elizabeth Kostova.

This book took me a pretty long time to get through, and it's 700+ page length was not something to be mocked I can tell you. I want to get better at facing some of the more intimidating books in my TBR pile though, so I'm glad that I bested it in the end. I took a while to think about my rating for this but I got there in the end. I'm entering this into the Monthly Motif Challenge too.

SOURCE: Bought
TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: The Historian
AUTHOR: Elizabeth Kostova
PUBLISHER: Time Warner Books
PAGES: 704
GENRE: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Gothic, Adult

RATING: 3.5/5 Stars

"To you, perceptive reader, I bequeath my history..."

Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters addressed ominously to ‘My dear and unfortunate successor’. Her discovery plunges her into a world she never dreamed of – a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an evil hidden in the depths of history.

What I Liked:
  • Kostova's writing is nothing short of gorgeous. It was so mature in it's composition, yet showed great skill in building atmosphere and imagery, and had a poetic quality to it that made me smile as I read. In some ways, it impressed me more than the writing which I praised in Stoker's classic 'Dracula' (on which this book is based) and I was certainly not expecting that. The inclusion of three different plot perspectives made it exciting and fresh to read, and I loved that the story itself was rooted in horror and a chilling tone, but interwoven with threads of romance and mystery for a change of pace.
  • You all know I appreciate good world-building but the sheer amount of research that must have gone into this book truly astounded me. I have always been a big fan of the subject of history and there was so much detail of a large number of time periods, which made me feel like I was learning while reading.
What I Disliked:
  • Unfortunately, the things that made this book fantastic also in some ways let it down. It is challenging to get through due to it's size and the depth of detail that Kostova explores. In order to purvey to the reader Historical fact, Kostova had to use a tremendous amount of info-dumping and characters were rarely allowed to get straight to the point. There were often long speeches filled with background information which got in the way of both plot and character development. I respected her knowledge deeply, but ended up skimming at times to get to the crux of what was being said.
Overall Conclusion:
I admire this book a heck of a lot for the simple fact that it's intricacies never bored me and it's length didn't completely scare me off. The plot, though complex, is well thought-out and structured in an exciting way. The extent of research that Kostova had indulged in when writing this monster was undeniably impressive. The characters I did care for, though I would have liked to see more of them on an emotional level and less academically. My favourite moments were the free and easy interactions that didn't involve a three paragraph long speech on more of Dracula's history. If you don't like info-dumping in a book then stay well away, but if you can look past that then you will find this a gorgeous, mature read with a complex quality that can only impress.

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