Monday, May 2, 2011

February - March Read


I don’t really know how to describe this book but i’d surely try my best.

I had seen this book on numerous bestseller lists since 2007 and on my sister’s bookshelf but I had never gathered enough reason to read it until two people recommended me to do so (thanks Afiq and Ida!). The first few pages were dizzyingly confusing; the next few chapters were intriguing while the rest of the book was painfully long and criss-crossed with one era and the other.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova tells the story of the author’s hunt of Vlad Tepes or the fictional version of it, The Dracula in the 1970s with her father. The quest started off when she found an old book with a woodcut dragon in the middle of the book in her father’s library and led the latter to reveal her how he had accidentally found the book during his student days in 1950s.

Then, we will learn why the author’s father had wanted to keep the book secret for years especially with his professor’s disappearance after he had shown him the same book when he found it. As the author travels around Europe with his father, she begins putting together the pieces of the mystery of Count Vlad the Impaler’s whereabouts to find his final resting place and hopefully, find her father’s missing professor again.

What makes this book a taxing task is the amount of attention you need to give to every page read. The main plotline takes place during the 1970s, as the author recalls her own experience and travelling with her father to unravel the mystery. The next plotline is in 1950s, when her father recalls his own experience discovering the book and up until his journey to the Eastern Europe for the same purpose. The final plotline takes place in 1930s, whenever her father’s professor, Bartholomew Rossi recalls his own experience to the author’s father.

Confused much?

As someone who has never really ventured deeply into Count Vlad’s history (except of some verbal lessons from my friend Akmal who lives in Bucharest, the world capital of Dracula), I found the first few pages quite impossible to read. I almost lost my interest in the book since it seemed the book was written in German – I couldn’t understand a thing!

But as the story progressed, I learned to pick up the pace and my interest slowly grew as I wanted to know more of Vlad the Impaler and why was he assumed not to be buried in wherever he was. I must admit, Kostova’s writing sometimes gave me chills when she described how she could feel the Dracula’s presence whenever she and her father were talking about it. But the rest of the book was painfully long and I had a great relief once I flipped open the final page.

Final note, the book itself is worth reading if you don’t plan on finishing it in a short time. If it’s not for the storyline, you’ll appreciate the history of Count Vlad and its fictional equivalent, Bram Stroker’s Dracula, as told throughout the book. With so many historical events unfolded, intriguing plotline and the surreal sensation thrown in, no wonder the book made its way into the New York Times bestseller’s list.

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