Elizabeth Kostova – The Historian

Published: Little, Brown and Co., 2005



Plot Overview

History grad student, Paul, is in the library one evening, surrounded by books, working on his dissertation about merchants in Denmark, when he notices a book on his table that he hadn’t taken off the shelf. It’s a very old, leather-bound book. There are no words inside, only a picture of a ferocious dragon in the very center of the tome. He thinks nothing of it, placing it on a rack of books for the librarians to put away upon closing, but the next day, the same book appears on his table again. Curiosity piqued, he takes it with him to a meeting with his faculty advisor, Professor Rossi, who recognizes it immediately – because he has one just like it. The professor then proceeds to tell his student about his own search into the truth behind the legend of Dracula, a search that took him to many countries, onto many dangerous paths and into harm’s way more than once. He warns Paul that delving deeper into the mystery makes you a target of the vampire, that one of his minions will appear and threaten you – usually by killing someone or something you love. Professor Rossi also confesses that he’s been working on a book about the undead Wallachian prince. Paul leaves his advisor’s office that night, more aware of the sounds around him in the darkness. Looking back at his professor’s office window, he thinks he sees a shadow cross the building, but tells himself that his mind is playing tricks on him after the meeting. He turns away and heads for home.

The next day, as he makes his way to his professor’s office once more, he sees college officials and police filling the hallway. As he approaches, he is recognized by the dean and brought into his advisor’s office. The office is in absolute disarray and his advisor is nowhere to be found – what is found, is a rather large, bloody smear across the ceiling. Turns out Paul was the last person to see the missing professor. After a thorough questioning, the police decide he had nothing to do with the disappearance and let him go. What else can he do, but devote all his time and efforts into researching Dracula, who he now knows is real and the cause of his beloved professor’s abduction?

Years later, Paul is now a businessman. He does a lot of traveling and sometimes takes his young daughter with him on trips around the world. On one trip to a university in Europe his daughter (who, although she has the role of narrator in the story, remains unnamed), happens upon her father in the library’s supernatural section, surrounded by books that have nothing to do with his line of work. Curiosity gets the best of her and she starts asking her father questions, which he reluctantly begins to answer. As they travel, he tells her about his professor’s disappearance and the long, difficult search he put into finding him. He never comes right out and tells her that Dracula exists, but as she hears the stories she begins to feel and see a dark presence wherever they go. One morning she wakes up in the guest house at the college to find a note from her father saying that he had to leave and that she would be taken to the train station and put on a train home. Well, after all she’s learned, she can’t just go home. After finding some of her father’s notes and some letters, she does indeed head to the train station, but she buys a ticket that will take her to St. Mathieu’s, the monastery she believes her father is headed toward. More and more of the history of Dracula, along with the journey Paul took on his search for the vampire and his professor, is revealed as the girl goes in search of her father.

The novel reaches its epic conclusion as Paul and some friends he made along the way, finally find this legendary monster. But, will they survive to tell the tale?



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