The Historian- Elizabeth Kostova

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I’m very seldom disappointed by books, probably because I’ll pretty much read anything, and generally it’s a rule of mine to approach books without any expectation. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova had me gripped, until page 500-and-something, when I realised that the characters just kept doing the same things, and the scenes they witness in one country, are repeated in another on their search for Dracula and one of his victims.

The concept of the book is great: Academics seem to be targeted or “chosen” when they receive a mysterious, dragon-centred book. Thus the protagonist’s father tells the tale to his daughter of how he received such a book, and coincidentally how he met her mother. When his lecturer, Bartholomew Rossi goes missing, after revealing that he too, owns one of the mysterious books, Paul begins a desperate search for his mentor, encountering supernatural beings along the way.

The story is bity- told through the narrator, then through a series of letters and documents written by a range of characters. No doubt Kostova thoroughly researched all the historical facts and events that imbue this book, however, it just goes on too long, and lacks the haunting thrill of Bram Stoker’s original.

I will say that Kostova’s writing itself is great, and she gives a very established sense of place throughout the various countries that the characters travel too. However, this book is a commitment, and if you’re a Dracula fan, I would say rather give it a miss.

I paired this book with the delicious Dimersdal shiraz, which contains deep blackcurrant and chocolate flavours, with notes of pepper, pomegranate, cigar box, cloves and spice.

Something to seek your teeth into

I don’t do scary very well. The closest thing to scary I can watch is a Zomedy (zombie-comedy). However, I do do classics extremely well, and maybe this is what continuously tugged me to tackle a scary story I would never (ever) have read otherwise.

For a long while it has been in my mind to attempt Bram Stoker’s Dracula. By nature I am a coward, and if I overthink things I don’t do them because I rationalise myself out of it. But there was no way around this one, so late one night I dived right in before I could look back.

It was an amazing journey! Bram Stoker’s way of writing is odd, and jarring at times because he writes from different character perspectives, as though they are journalling their experiences. By the end of the story, the characters have a rich inner life and you feel like you have experienced a world of terror, death and the supernatural with them.

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In the custom of the day, Stoker describes everything down to the finest detail, giving the story a hauntingly real feel, which is probably what makes it so scary. If I ever become a famous film-maker someday, I would re-do this masterpiece of fiction-fantasy.

There are no sparkly vampires here, I could only read it during the day, twice I tried at night and twice I couldn’t sleep, but all-in-all I’m so glad that I read (and finished) this book.

I paired it with the always-excellent Leopards Leap CabSav Merlot blend. This smooth and easy drinking wine is lovely and soft and inoffensive. Bound to quench any thirst (mwa ha ha ha *in a Dracula voice*)