Monday, February 18

Elizabeth Kostova: The Historian

Generations of historians have risked their reputations, their sanity and even their lives to learn the true story behind the legend of Dracula. This is supposedly an account of how a woman inherits both their cumulative research and their scholastic obsession with the man who once was Vlad the Impaler. This book asks the question do vampires exist and answers it with a resounding yes.
Through a series of letters, books, documents, maps, folk songs and half forgotten traditions, that stretch back over 500yrs this woman risks everything to trace Dracula’s final resting place, only to be disappointed. Her search continues until she finally comes face to face the undead one himself and witnesses his dispatch.
Or did she? The author provides just enough of a hint to suggest that the story is not quite over yet.
At over six hundred pages this is a long book and the writing style made it seem even longer. Much of this story is told rather than shown. I believe that this was a conscious choice on the part of the author to give the text a documentary or academic flavour. And in this, if indeed it was the author’s intention, she has been successful. Having acknowledged that, I feel it a shame that a story predominantly about chasing, and being chased, across Europe by vampires lacked intensity. It really needed, for want of a better phrase, a higher scare factor.
Once I was consoled to the drier style I did enjoy the story. One factor that really stood out in its favour- it was made very clear that the main protagonist was building on the work of those that came before her. We were only hearing her story because she was there at the culmination of centuries of effort. Unlike similar books (such as the Da Vinci Code, Decipher or the travesty that was The Last Templar) where the millennium old mystery is solved in a matter of days without help or prior understanding of factors involved, this story did not ask the reader to accept savant like abilities on the part of the protagonists or rely overly on coincidence or the generosity of Fate.
Overall an interesting variation on the theme but not exactly riveting-Lynn

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