Monday, 25 July 2011

The Historian/Vampire fiction

I finally got around to reading 'The Historian' by Elizabeth Kostova this past week. I enjoyed reading it, but it wasn't quite as good as I hoped it would be.

It obviously carried a debt of inspiration to Bram Stoker, and was written in epistolary form as an appropriate tribute. However, I don't think the structure of the narrative with the changes in chronology helped the story. It was also difficult to distinguish a distinct change in narrative tone between the three separate characters of Bartolomeo Rossi, Paul and his daughter, and I found myself flicking back to double check where I was exactly in the story and who was writing this particular missive.

Another problem was the fact that the story wasn't really that frightening. 'The Historian' is a book with wonderful prose, and Kostova describes the scenic travelogue sections of the novel with marvellous skill, and some sections of it are very atmospheric. Yet maybe the traditional vampire depiction does not carry that notion of fear that it once did. After all, in Stoker's Victorian England the vampire was something alien and provocative within a repressive society: it represented the orient, sexual abandon, primal desires and post-Darwinian evolutionary degeneration. In the modern era, the vampire represents something different- he's almost a romantic, idealised figure, the brooding social outcast. He's the tall, dark and handsome hot guy at your high school (see Buffy, the Twilight stories, Robert Pattinson etc)

Apparently this book has been compared to Dan Brown's 'Da Vinci Code'. Apart from the superficial similarities of the merger of history/myth, a quest for the truth plot and a male/female character bumbling around dusty old chapels and monasteries, the books are quite different. Kostova is a much better writer.

For a modern re-interpretation of the vampire myth specifically in relation to Dracula, instead of Kostova's book I would recommend Peter Tremayne's 'Dracula Lives!' trilogy.

No comments:

Post a Comment