Monday, January 30, 2006
I finished The Historian, which I started about a week before Christmas. It was a present for Rick, and he dug in immediately, so I had to sneak in chapters when he wasn’t reading. The Historian is essentially a vampire story. But it is a vampire story written from the points of view of historians who find themselves caught up in something they never would have dreamed of—the pursuit of Dracula, otherwise known as Vlad the Impaler, who they have reason to believe is, in fact, alive.
I don’t want to give anything away, because y’all know how much I hate doing that, so I won’t go into details about Dracula or why the main characters are driven in their quest. That is the legend aspect of the book. But I do want to at least mention the historical aspect. The Historian takes place from roughly 1930 to 1970 and also delves back in history as far as the early fifteenth century, primarily in eastern Europe. The backdrop of the Cold War is ever-present in the more modern setting, adding to the tension of the story. The historians travel thoughout Europe in their quest; settings such as Istanbul and Budapest become characters of the novel themselves—and have, of course, sparked a great interest in East European travel in my husband.
This book was a very slow read for me—normally, I devour books, putting everything else in my life on hold until “The End”. (Which is why I can’t re-read the Harry Potter books during the semester). This book was different. It is slowly paced, which was a wonderful change from a lot of modern fiction, with its Wham-Bam, movie-style approach. You imagine the writer thinking, “Okay, it’s been 15 pages since any action occurred, I’d better throw in a scary note sent to the protagonist for suspense!” The Historian is punctuated by long periods of inaction—sometimes, you must wade through forty pages of letters and documents before a break.
Which adds to its charm, actually. It’s been awhile since I had to struggle through a novel—at some points, when Rick would ask how the book was coming, I’d answer, “I’ve got all these letters to get through and I just don’t feel like reading this right now.” Though I never fully connected with the characters in this book, I did connect with the feeling of history, of place, and a bit of the tedium that is research!
If you are in the mood for one of the trendy treasure-hunt-through-history-and-legend kind of novels but thought the Da Vinci Code was kinda lame, this is a good read. It will require more work from you than The DaVinci Code, and it is well worth the effort.