The Historian

4.5 stars, actually.

This is an amazing literary and historical journey of a book that is actually a story within a story (and sometimes a third layer of story) of a daughter following/uncovering her father’s journey into Turkey, Soviet Bulgaria, Hungary, and other places of that region as he followed the historical legends of Vlad Dracula of Wallachia.

It’s a historian and archivist dream. There are so many primary sources in so many different languages found in so many ornate, dusty archives and church libraries in this book that I suddenly felt my lack of Greek, Turkish, and Cyrillic language skills while hankering to hang out amongst shelves of books and folios. (In the same way Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose felt).

The prose quite faithfully follows an older, more genteel style of speech and cadence, and the conversations are almost exclusively related to which friend of the current speaker may have some obscure letter or book related to their quest. There is a love story of sorts, or rather two love stories, although both of them seem to be more a by product of a mutual love of historical books and places rather than each other.

Half a star gets taken away because the book went on just a bit too long for me. The ending was quite satisfying, but some of the chronicling of the latter part of the father’s travels in Bulgaria felt longish to me. Also, at times I resented the intrusion of a paragraph of the modern daughter’s train trip into the more fascinating historical journey of the father and felt that i needn’t be reminded she was looking for him in that scattered way.

Still, for anyone with interest in Dracula, or who enjoys slightly old fashioned gothic thriller, or is a bibliophile (or the daughter of a librarian as I am with memories of passing time in the tall stacks of a college library while daddy worked) this book is a special treat.