Review: The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova

There are not many novels — or at least not many novels I’ve read — that are set largely in libraries and archives, and whose heroes are historians. In this book, practically everyone could be “the historian” of the title, but that is not revealed until the last chapters of the book.

In a series of cleverly-told parallel narratives set in the 1930s, 1950s and 1970s, a prominent academic, one of his students and the latter’s daughter play their roles in a centuries-long quest to find the legendary Dracula. I say “legendary” but of course Bram Stoker based his story on a real figure, Vlad the Impaler, a notoriously brutal medieval lord who fought against the Turks in the 15th century.

It is a complex tale and ranges for over 700 pages, but for those who enjoy a good vampire story, or who are keen to read about the eternal conflict between librarians and researchers (I’m not making this up), it’s worth the effort.