The Historian was one of the choices for my school's grade 11 University English Independent Study Unit; precisely the reason I chose to read it. The summary made the novel out to be one of the most outstanding, unique, thrilling stories. I am quite interested in history and after reading the summary I had thought I had found the Holy Grail of historical fiction novels. My mistake.
After a good 100 pages into the novel I felt myself hoping that it would pick up in pace. Wrong again. Elizabeth Kostova would include a series of events which I assumed (as most readers) would lead up to a most thrilling climax. Instead the novel never did hit its peak and continued to drone on, I'm sorry to say, throughout the whole novel. After many enticing events, the story would die down in suspense (though there wasn't much to begin with) and continue to maintain a pattern of exciting (if you can say that) events followed by anti-climax.
The novel was also narrated by two, not one, characters, which proved to be very confusing to follow. With the characters, the story also fluctuated between different decades and, moreover, both of the characters were continually changing countries which eventually became a nightmare to try to comprehend.
Though the plot was difficult to follow in the first place, Elizabeth Kostova literary characteristics invited her to write in the same style as a history textbook; dates and all. The reader was forced to decipher all the historical background in order to understand to the current events of the novel. Since I do not usually read history texts in my spare time, I found Kostova's writing style to be most dry. I found that I had to concentrate too much on the settings, past events and historical information of the story to be able to enjoy the story itself.
The novel did entice me at one point when romanticism was introduced between two of the main characters. Of course, Kostova chose not to develop this relationship, which begs the question: Why introduce it in the first place?
Despite hardly being able to comprehend a great deal of the novel, I continued to hope for a climactic ending in order for the book to redeem itself. I was truly disappointed when I closed the novel without having been satisfied with the ending I was hoping for. Instead, the story continued much like a newspaper: all facts, little story.
I suggest you chose this novel if you are truly, deeply passionate about ancient history (you might be able to get more out of the novel than I did) or if you have already read all of the other novels available to you.