I read The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova on the recommendation of a friend.
Since it was coming up on Bram Stoker’s birthday, I was in the mood for something creepy. But The Historian is more than a supernatural tale of sleeping evil awakening to influence the fate of a young girl. From the great cities of London, Amsterdam, Istanbul and Budapest, to the rural villages in the South of France, reading this is like touring the European world. Elizabeth Kostova also takes you on the trains and in the boarding houses and hotels and through tourist destinations in a way that is always central to her story. It doesn’t feel at all like forced descriptions for their own sake.
Fair warning; there are vampires in this book. But they are in the tradition of Bram Stoker’s original classic Dracula. This is refreshing after all the sparkly vampires full of personal angst we have seen so much of in contemporary literature. And just like in Dracula, The Historian takes the wandering reader through beautiful descriptions of far away lands, cultures and traditions.
Elizabeth, you had me at “Amsterdam.”
My husband lived in the Netherlands for part of his boyhood. This snapshot (the family does not agree who was the photographer) was taken on an outing in 1966. This is Dearest and his parents in Amsterdam. (Look at those ears!) For Dearest, Amsterdam is a vague childhood memory. He remembers the constant wind blowing sharp and clean off the North Sea. He remembers a basket his sister held that smelled strongly of fish though it was empty. He remembers riding low in the hull of a boat with the waterline level with the elbow of his blue coat.
Reading about Kostova’s heroine trotting around Amsterdam a decade after Dearest made his memories there, left me wondering about what he lost to forgetfulness and what has changed with time. Just as it stirs up all but forgotten memories for him, it stirs up curiosity in me about the city.
So here are the questions I have for you, wander-readers:
Have you ever read a book that captured a well-loved place and brought back memories?
What was the book and where was the place? I might want to follow you there.