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So anyway,
Because what the Net really needs is another person sharing his uninformed views
Book review: The Historian 
31st-Mar-2010 12:32 pm
You know what's annoying? When half the people you know rave about a book, so you buy it, then the other half suddenly pop up out of the woodwork and say it's awful. Add the fact that it's 700 pages long and you can see why Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian has been sitting in my "to-read" pile for a long time, but I finally braved it a couple of weeks ago. An update of Dracula from the perspective of academics caught up in a search for the truth about the vampire, the narrator recalls her father's story of how he got caught up in these events. I actually came very close to giving up because for the first 200 pages we tend to get a couple of chapters of detailed descriptions of places in Europe they visited, followed by a couple of pages of the actual story that her father told her when they were there. After this things pick up a bit but the narration remains leisurely to say the least. A lot of things annoyed me, not least of all how this pace actually made no sense - much of the story is told in letters, supposedly written in a hurry, but the father still manages to include details of every meal he ate 20 years earlier. Kostova is of course aiming for atmosphere, but she does this completely at the expense of story. She might get away with the lack of plot if it was all leading to a big finale, but after building up Dracula as more horrific than anyone ever thought she then fumbles the ending and leaves him a damp squib, dispatched ridiculously easily. There's also a general patronising attitude towards the Eastern European characters - there's an icky feeling that the lead characters regard them as "noble savages" and even the genius Romanian academic is practically thrown a fish every time she uses a big word. I did get to the end and if you've started it I'd say you might as well stick with it, but a better idea might be not to read the book in the first place.

(Also, I don't know what Image magazine is, but they're quoted in the blurb as saying this is "genuinely scary." I can only imagine they also shit themselves in terror at the Teletubbies.)
31st-Mar-2010 07:49 pm (UTC)
Interesting! I got as far as page 135 (I just checked LOL!) and whilst I haven't intentionally given up on it, that was about 3 months ago and I keep finding something else to read rather than go back and finish it, that has to say something about how engrossing I found it.
Maybe I'll give it another go eventually, but I can't say I'm inspired to.
31st-Mar-2010 10:45 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't strain your wrist picking it up again then:
Killing Dracula ends up involving, to all intents and purposes, pointing behind him and going "Look, what's that?" "What? D'oh!"
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