Saturday, 19 March 2011

The Historian

About time I rejoined the 21st century for a while with a contemporary novel. I do like novels set in academia so I was pleased when my reading group chose Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian for March.

I was immediately drawn in by the opening of this novel. An ancient book mysteriously appears on a student's desk and reappears when he returns it to the rare books section of the university library. There there is the mysterious disappearance of the charismatic professor who had been researching the history of Dracula and only a smear of blood is left on the ceiling of his study. The papers and letters he leaves behind are all addressed to 'My dear and unfortunate successor.'

I'm only a couple of hundred pages in - this novel is 700 pages long(!) - but I'm enjoying the elegance of the writing. I'm not particularly interested in the legend and history of Dracula per se but so far the novel is holding my attention.

I was sorry to see that Jane Brocket is wavering about whether to continue her inspiring blog. I have to say that I've never found the book blogging community to be anything other than positive and mutually supportive. Possibly because reading is a non-competitive activity?


melissa said...

This was a wonderful book...hope you enjoy reading all of it. :)

Frisbee said...

I'd love to read this. I started reading it at the library once and will have to check it out. Glad to know she's a good writer.

Darlene said...

A book that keeps catching my eye so I look forward to reading whether or not it holds your interest all the way through those 700 pages!

And I thank goodness for this wonderful community of book lovers almost every day. Jane's blog is certainly a bright spot as well, hopefully she hangs in there.

Cath said...

I loved The Historian, must read it again sometime soon. It wasn't really the plot that held me either, but the writing, the travelling and the history. At the same time as I was reading it the BBC were showing Michael Palin's Eastern European series and the two went together very well. Hope you continue to enjoy it.

Steph said...

I am glad that you are enjoying this one. I read it pre-blogging and while I enjoyed the first 300 pages or so, I found the rest of the novel dragged quite a lot and wasn't nearly as suspenseful as that first bit. I also thought the ending, well, sucked (no pun intended) and it was all a bit of a disappointment for me, I'm afraid. Obviously others didn't have the issues I did however, so I hope you continue to like it!

Mystica said...

I read this ages ago and found it a very good one. I do hope you enjoy it as well.

lyn said...

The historian sounds interesting. I've passed it by at work quite often, I'll have to pick it up next time! I agree with your comments about blogging & Jane Brocket's experience. The book bloggers I read are just wonderful & our only jealousies are about the books others have found in Oxfam shops (especially those of us in Australia where there are no Oxfam shops!). Other than that, book blogs are about sharing information about an obsession we all share.

Mae said...

Hope you enjoy The Historian. I read it in one night and think it's fantastic. I love books set in Academia too. It gives those old university building and large libraries a delicious and sinister thrill.

Oh, reading can be competitive. I used to race against friends- who can read the faster, who has read the most books, who can recall which scenes from which book...but this was when I was in primary school.

verity said...

That is such a good point about reading being non competititve. I love Jane Brocket's blog and will be gutted if she ends it.

Anonymous said...

I have never read The Historian, because I never felt any interest in Dracula. But I know thi book was well received and maybe I will read it someday? I'm looking forward to your final thoughts.

Most of the time the book blogging community is a very positive place to be. I admit I have struggles with it a few times over the past months, and I do feel there's some competitiveness here and there, but there really shouldn't be. And as long as you visit nice bloggers such a you, there really is only support to be found.

InĂªs G. said...

I've had this book on my shelf for the longest time now! I actually didn't even know what it was about, but always thought it was very dense and boring. I think I'll pick it up next!

Bellezza said...

First of all, can I just say that I love the photograph of the coffee you have in almost every picture?! So wonderful, it makes me want to reach right through my screen. Or, go to Italy. ;)

I read this novel before I read the original Dracula, and I really enjoyed it. I think I most especially loved the father/daughter connection, which is weird, isn't it, in the light of it being about Dracula? Well, it was many years ago, and I can't remember enough to be articulate in discussion, but I did enjoy the book a lot. Hope you do, too.

And, it's so true how supportive the book community is. Love it.

potterjotter said...

I am not a book blogger, but I still read books and rely on you people to recommend them ... am currently really loving one I think I got from you - The Death of the Heart? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to you, I picked up The Historian when I saw it in a charity shop yesterday. It's very long!

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I'm so glad you are enjoying this book. This is one of my favorite books ever and I've read it twice. I've also heard that the audio book is incredible, so I might need to try it so I can get my The Historian fix again.

Rose said...

There was a period when every tube train in London contained at least 2 people reading this in paperback.

I love those books when everyone seems to be reading them and you can wonder about how they're enjoying it, where they're up to. Every now and again you get the magic moment when you're reading the same thing as someone else, catch their eye and then remember you're British and pretend you've not noticed... (!)

Penny said...

This book was on my TBR bookcase until I handed it over to my daughter whose love of Buffy predates mine. :o) I saw it often in shops and swithered, but then saw it in a charity shop and snapped it up. Now I'm swithering about reading it. Interesting to see the different opinions!

I love the book-blogging community and have never seen any competitiveness. Maybe I've just chosen the nicest people to follow! :o)

I've enjoyed Jane Brockett's blog since buying her Domesticity book. Hope she keeps going! The woman who introduced me to crocheted ripple blankets must not be allowed to disappear from blogdom!

Vintage Reading said...

melissa, hi, I did enjoy reading it, but I thought there was too much research and not enough character development. I'd certainly be interested in reading more Kostova, though.

Frisbee, yes she wrote well - the novel wasn't perfect but I would read more by this writer.

Darlene, I must admit I glazed over a bit when we took yet another trip across Eastern Europe to search through more ancient archives(!), but generally the novel was pretty good.

Cath, I have to say I didn't love it, but I liked it a lot. I kind of got fed up with all the travel, but if I was particularly interested in Eastern Europe, possibly it would have held my attention more - I learnt a lot anyway!

Steph, yes I alternated by enjoying it and then getting irritated by all the travel. I don't think I quite got the ending. I liked the fact that Dracula was a book-lover though!

Mystica, odd that opinions are very divided on this novel, I thought it was good but not great.

lyn, I'd recommend the Kostova with some reservations. Yes there is definitely jealousy among book bloggers - who has the best Persphone collection!!

Mae, you read it in one night??? Took me two weeks! Yes, the libraries and universities where brilliantly described. Didn't love it but liked it a lot.

verity, yes, I don't craft, knit or bake (much!) but I like Jane's sense of style and she's a very good on books, too.

iris, I have no particular interest in Dracula either, perhaps that's why I didn't love the book.
Sorry to learn that you have had some problems in the book blogging community. There's enough competition in life without it spilling over into a blogs!

Ines, it is a bit dense. I'd recommend it with reservations.

Belezza, I do have a coffee addiction - occupational hazard of being a reader I suppose! I didn't love the novel as much as some, but I thought it was very well written and it generally held my attention. I'm interested in Kostova's second novel.

potter jotter, oh I'm glad you're enjoying the Bowen. To the North is still sitting on my bookshelf and I must start it soon. Thanks for the reminder.

callmemadam, very very very long! Hope you enjoy it!

coffee book chick, that's interesting I should imagine it would work very well as an audio book, you could get the requisite chilling atmosphere. I didn't love it, but I did like it.

Rose, I love to see what people are reading on the tube. I believe there are whole blogs devoted to spying on what folk are reading in public places!

Penny, opinion is officialy divided on The Historian! Sharing the Jane love ...!