Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

I heard so much about this book before I read it. All glowing reviews – "DaVinci Code for intellectuals", or something like that. I was so excited about this book because I love vampires. Pale and bloody and cold and absurdly intense. Just can't get enough of a good vampire story. But alas, a good vampire story is hard to find. And I didn't find one here.

Maybe it was partially my fault. I started reading the book the same week school started back up and haven't been able to devote any long periods of time to reading. But usually, if a book is interesting enough, I figure out a way to fit it in to my schedule, regardless of how busy I might be. This book though, I never reached a point where I just couldn't put it down. I kept waiting for action, and it never happened. So maybe I'm just too accustomed to flying through books. But these days I just feel like there are so many books I want to read, I don't want to waste too much time on one. I need to dive into my books to escape my reality, and believe me, I've been in dire need of an escape lately, and I was never able to immerse myself in this book. If a book is interesting enough, it doesn't take that long to read, irrelevant of the number of pages it contains. However, I will say that if I'd picked this up in the middle of summer and had long Saturdays to do nothing other than lay out in the sun and read, maybe I'd feel differently about it. Maybe, on the other hand, vampires in 100 degree heat, I don't know about that…

Basically, I just didn't find the story very interesting. I was worried that maybe there was something wrong with me. Maybe I'm not the intellectual I think I am. But after finally finishing this, I read through some reviews on amazon, and am glad to see I'm not the only one who had difficulty with this book. I did finish it, granted, I skimmed through the last two hundred pages and I don't feel like I missed all that much. There are so many documents and so much research and I'm not sure that it was all necessary.

There are two separate storylines going on, the narrator is performing her own quest and while doing so, she's reading about what her father did many years before. But I was bothered by all the coincidences, which I assumed were supposed to reflect Dracula's omnipotent power, but it was never fully explained, or maybe I skimmed over that part.

At one point I walked into my office and someone asked how the book was going and I said "I think I've figured out the big twist, and it isn't that big of a twist. Sure enough, a hundred or so pages later, the revelation was made and I didn't find it all that shocking. I'm not giving it away in case you're planning to read it.

I wanted something more exciting, I wanted something a bit more intense and sexy, I guess. I wanted more Dracula. I wanted more danger. Oh there was plenty of danger I suppose, but it was so bogged down by the words, I never felt the chill or the suspense. Also, I suspect the form in which it was written sort of eliminated any suspense from the get go. She's reading old documents written by her father, so you know he's going to live through the danger he's describing. You know her mother is going to stick around for a while, because well, she's her mother so she's not dying immediately.

I think the book had potential. I think maybe it needed a better editor. Maybe some of those long rambling documents and letters could have been summarized in more of a conversational mode.

Overall, I was quite disappointed. I wanted more out of this book. It didn't deliver on all the hype it received. I feel like I got scammed. At some point I'm going to learn that I never like the books that the entire world claims are wonderful.

1 comment:

Spider Girl said...

Life's too short to read so-so books, isn't it?

I'm glad you're reviewing books on this site. I'm a librarian's daughter and I go through stacks of 'em.

Also, I DO like vampire stories. But I may give this one a miss. Thanks for the heads-up. :)