Last night I finally finished Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian. I'm still trying to decide whether it's a good book or not.
It's very, very long.
If you ever wanted to know what it might be like to do Raiders of the Lost Ark but replacing the archeologist with a historian, then you'll be disappointed that the the book contains no ominous advancing boulders, hardly any guns and only negligible amounts of vodka.
But there is a huge amount of research. In fact, I got the feeling that Kostova might have spent years doing research on how historians do research, and couldn't bear to leave any details out of her novel. I'm fairly certain that this door-stopper of a book could easily have been half as long, without losing any of the story.
There were far too many transcripts of letters written by monks about trips around the Balkans. Worse, I was bothered by the unexplained, too-fortuitous meetings with complete strangers who turned out to have a connection to the big D (Dracula).
And so much of the story is told via letters - letters to the young girl from her historian father, letters to the father from his PhD supervisor, letters to the supervisor from his best mate, letters from the girl's mysteriously absent mother, and of course, letters between monks travelling around the Balkans with their bloodthirsty baggage. I know it's a literary device, but I couldn't help wondering why these people wrote such detailed letters - why didn't they just write a book and be done with it?
Last of all, the ending was predictable. And I'm not even one of those annoying people who see the plot twist in the first hour of the film and then tell everyone what's going to happen.
Having said that, I did manage to read the whole thing, and I only got bored with all the letter-reading about two thirds of the way in. So maybe if you've time to kill, like the idea of an adventure peopled by undead librarians and feisty academics, then this book wouldn't necessarily be a waste of money.