Vampires are often portrayed in films and novels as creatures of great erudition. Deep readers
lurking in musty collections of obscure lore in which dark secrets can be found. Carefully
selected new acolytes can be admitted to their kabbalistic realm, the cost only being their soul.
These are some of the themes mined in The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (2005-909 pages). Why do readers evolve into vampires? Does reading drain our life force?
The Historian is a very long book. I love long books as long as the content helps the book. Some of the historical aspects of the book are interesting and shows the author has watched some History channel programs on the Baltic and the Biography Channel show on Vlad the Impaler. The descriptions of Istanbul and other cities are also interesting enough. The conflation of Dracula and Vlad the Impaler was also dealt with on The History Channel. To me there is a good bit of duplication in the historical narratives and travel log parts of the book. The characters are not that well developed. A lot of the conversation seems stilted. The central love story is not real convincing.
The book does get better as you go on and I really enjoyed the last fifty or so pages.
The book does show us somethings about the reading life. it show how reading can lead to obsessions that can drain other aspects of our lives from us. It also show how a shared love of common reading interests can create immediate bonds.
I think maybe the book is set in preinternet post world war two Europe in order for scholars and academics will be required to do all their research in books and special libraries rather than on line. The lore of the Vampire seems much more recondite when it is in a private library in Romania than when it is on The Guttenburg Project
The Historian to me seems worth reading as a suspenseful vampire mystery (it did take a while for something exciting to happen) I still do not know why we accept the notion that Vampires are deeply read but it makes us thing about some Reading Life issues. The central characters are nearly all book centered persons. I enjoyed The Historian. It is a clever take on the Dracula story. This was the author's first novel. I will look forward to her next one.