The Historian – Review

By Elizabeth Kostova

I was given this book in university, which if you read it in full will strike you as particularly apt. I was given it by my best friend, who said “don’t ask questions just read it” I did not have time to ask questions because I was too busy reading.  While I didn’t actually skip my lecture to continue reading it, I may as well have because I don’t think I looked up from The Historian once. I don’t even remember which course the lecture was for.
This is not only my favourite fiction book: it is the best book to read while travelling because it reignites that wanderlust in your heart. It is the best book to read while backpacking because it reminds you that the getting to the destination an be just as important as the destination. It is also the best book to inspire wanderlust because the language and the way it is written completely evokes the wonder of travel, that feeling you have stepping on to the train to go somewhere new.

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Statistics- How Much, How Big, and How Long

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Size: 20 x 3.5 x 12.9 cm
Pages: 752
Weight: 500g (ish)
Hours to read: 20 hours (30+leisurely)

There is also the option to get the incredible audio book narrated by Justine Eyre and Paul Michael. It says its unabridged but there is one scene missing and while it annoys me, a nerd, it isn’t a vitally important scene – and it doesn’t make the audio book any less awesome, I just have to vent about it.

What is it about?

This is an epic adventure; it is gripping, addictive, and repeatable. We meet our guide in a letter from Oxford, she explains why she needs to tell us this story.

1960s, when she was a remarkably well behaved teenager living in Amsterdam, she found something in her fathers library. An ancient, terrifying, book and a heavy envelope full of letters addressed to “My dear and unfortunate successor…”

She embarks on a journey of discovery about her father and his mentor; a lost mother, an unknown tomb, and an evil that bleeds through the pages of history.

Elizabeth Kostova lets you discover Europe and its its winding, often cruel, history through the eyes of one with a destiny far stranger than she ever imagined. Come face to face with Vlad The Impaler, one of the most notorious murderers in history.


Did I like it?

This is easily one of my favourite travel books. I have read hundreds and hundreds of books. This is the best fiction book I have ever read. I fell asleep with it in my hands on several occasions because I couldn’t go to bed- I had to finish it.

I have also read it dozens of times, I have bought at least three copies and I have the audio book downloaded as well. If you decide to get an audiobook version make sure it is unabridged because the beauty of this book is its descriptive prose.

This may not strike you immediately as a travel book, but we follow our characters – no, our friends – around

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Europe. We hear stories on a Venetian piazza, near the Acropolis in Athens, and in tea shops of eastern European towns that remain unnamed by our author to “protect them from the kind of tourist who follows death around with a guidebook”.


The Historian took Elizabeth Kostova ten years to write – and it shows. The story is multilayered, you come to care about the characters, and you feel as if he is standing behind you in the dark as you read.

Not only does it make me want to take trains all over Europe and delve into my academic research, but the history is by and large correct. I know more about the Ottoman Empire in the Common Era because of this book than I ever learned at school.

The Historian is essentially a detective story, but you are actively researching it with the characters. You are the main character.


I Recommend This Book For:

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to be engaged in what they are reading, likes history, culture, or Europe. It is a longer read, but it is so worth it.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova is simply the most enjoyable, page turning, and brain engaging story I have read as an adult. Any one who enjoys research or detective work will love this romantic, but true to experience, depiction of libraries and archives in a time before quick search.

Yes, The Historian is a Vampire Story. No, no one sparkles and at no point will you go ‘uuughh REALLY???”. The history of Vampire Lore is legitimately fascinating and this book provides some great insight into this dark obsession of centuries.

I have read, half, of The Swan Thieves. The second book published by Kostova. I have only every done this once, but I got so annoyed and bored that I googled the synopsis and never picked it up again. She wrote it in about a year, and that is reflected in the book. I have not read her new book, which she has spent several years on so I have high hopes!

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The Historian - Elizabeth Kostova Review

The Historian – Elizabeth Kostova Review