The Historian

By Elizabeth Kostova
Binding:Hardcover
Publisher:Little, Brown and Company, (6/14/2005)
Language:English



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DESCRIPTION: In this riveting debut of breathtaking scope, a young girl discovers her father's darkest secret and embarks on a harrowing journey across Europe to complete the quest he never could -- to find history's most legendary fiend: Dracula. When a motherless American girl living in Europe finds a medieval book and a package of letters, all addressed ominously to "My dear and unfortunate successor..." she begins to unravel a thread that leads back to her father's past, his mentor's career, and an evil hidden in the depths of history. In those few quiet moments, she unwittingly assumes a quest she will discover is her birthright: a hunt that nearly brought her father to ruin and may have claimed the life of his adviser and dear friend, history professor Bartholomew Rossi. What does the legend of Vlad the Impaler, the historical Dracula, have to do with the 20th century? Is it possible that Dracula has lived on in the modern world? And why have a select few historians risked reputation, sanity, and even their lives to learn the answer? So begins an epic journey to unlock the secrets of the strange medieval book, an adventure that will carry our heroine across Europe and into the past -- not only to the times of Vlad's heinous reign, but to the days when her mother was alive and her father was still a vibrant young scholar. In the end, she uncovers the startling fate of Rossi, and comes face to face with the definition of evil-- to find, ultimately, that good may not always triumph.
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 General reading guide discussion questions to be used with ANY book your book club or reading group might be discussing.
 
 

1. In the “Note to the Reader,” the narrator tells us, “There is a final resource to which I’ve resorted when necessary — the imagination.” How does she use this resource in telling her story? Is it a resource to which the other historians in the book resort as well?

2. The theme of mentors and disciples is an important one in The Historian. Who are the story’s mentors, and in what sense is each a mentor? Who are the book’s disciples?

3. Near the end of chapter 4, Rossi says, “Human history is full of evil deeds, and maybe we ought to think of them with tears, not fascination.” Does he follow his own advice? How does his attitude toward history evolve in the course of his own story?

4. In chapter 5, Paul’s friend Massimo asserts that in history there are no small questions. What does he mean by this and how does this idea inform the book? Do you agree with his statement?

5. Helen and Paul come from very different worlds, although they share a passion for history. How have their upbringings differed? What factors have shaped each of them?

6. Throughout the book, anyone who finds an antique book with a dragon in the middle is exposed to some kind of danger. What does this danger consist of ? Is it an external power or do the characters bring it upon themselves?

7. Each of the characters is aware of some of the history being made in his or her own time. What are some of these real historical events, and why are they important to the story?

8. At the beginning of chapter 1, Paul’s daughter notes, “I had been raised in a world so sheltered that it makes my adult life in academia look positively adventurous.”How does she change as a person in the course of her quest?

9. Helen’s history is deeply intertwined with that of Dracula. In what ways are the two characters connected? Does she triumph over his legacy, or not?

10. In chapter 73, Dracula states his credo: “History has taught us that the nature of man is evil, sublimely so.” Do the characters and events of the novel prove or disprove this belief ?

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Elizabeth Kostova is the author of the international bestseller The Historian. She graduated from Yale and holds an MFA from the University of Michigan, where she won the Hopwood Award for the Novel-in-Progress.


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