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The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova The Historian is driven by the quests of four major characters during three separate time periods:  in the 1930’s Dr. Bartholomew Rossi; in the 1950’s Paul and Helen, Dr. Rossi’s graduate student, and his daughter, respectively; and in the 1970’s Paul’s teenage daughter.   They each seek the truth behind the legendary Vlad Tepes (Dracula) and his hidden tomb.

“To you, perceptive reader, I bequeath my history….”
Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters. The letters are all addressed to “My dear and unfortunate successor,” and they plunge her into a world she never dreamed of – a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an inconceivable evil hidden in the depths of history. Back Bay Books / Little, Brown and Company

Book Club Ideas


First of all, to ward off any unwelcome guests be sure to lay out garlic, a wooden stake, a dagger, and a silver (toy) pistol.  Have some pa’linka (fruit brandy) on hand to steady the nerves and a bouquet of red and yellow flowers.


Turkish Evil Eye Talisman

In response to the gypsy woman’s curse on Helen, Turget “rummaged in his jacket pocket and drew out a small object, which he placed next to her plate. It was a flat blue stone about an inch long, set with white and paler blue, like a crude eye. Be sure to have your own protection!


Next, some very nice Hungarian Gypsy violin music to further enhance the atmosphere …


The inspiration for my menu comes from the scene in which Paul and Helen join Aunt Eva for dinner (actually an Hungarian feast) in Budapest.  I read up a bit on Hungarian food before tackling this meal and found that the Hungarians are a soup-eating people and that a three-course meal always begins with soup, such as a meaty gulyas.

The First Course

Hungarian Gulyas ‘The stewed meats and vegetables – one dish of which Helen called gulyas… – gave rise to a long description of the invasion of the region by the Magyars in the ninth century.”

Hungarian Farmer’s Bread (Kenyer) “The wonderful golden bread”

The Second Course

“Aunt Eva explained to me through Helen, ‘We call these hortobahyi palascinta.  They are a kind of pancake filled with veal, a tradition with the shepherds in the the lowlands of Hungary.'”

Veal Stuffed Palacsinta with Hungarian Tomato Salad

Green Beans with Dill

The Third Course (dessert)

“Just when I thought I could not eat another bite, two waiters appeared with trays of pastries and tortes that would not have been out of place in an Austro-Hungarian throne room…”

I couldn’t decide which Hungarian dessert I wanted to tackle, Rigo Jancsi or Dobos Torte, so I made both!

Rigo Jancsi

Dobos Torte

“… and with cups of ‘Eszpresszo‘… Somehow we found room for everything.”

Book Club Resources

My Rating:  4 stars   A spooky, intelligent read!

  • “…Elizabeth Kostova has produced an honorable summer book, reasonably well written and enjoyable and, most important of all, very, very long: One can tote The Historian to the beach, to the mountains, to Europe or to grandmother’s house and still be reading its 21st-century coda when Labor Day finally rolls around.”  – Michael Dirde, The Washington PostReviews
  • “…Ten years in the writing, this debut is recommended for readers who enjoy arcane literary puzzles la Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and Ian Caldwell’s The Rule of Four.”  – Patricia Altner, Library Journal
  • “Anyone who loves to become involved in the lives of fictional characters will find much to savor in this intricately plotted, delicately written novel. Kostova is a natural storyteller. She tells her otherworldly tale with great assurance and considerable style.” – June Sawyers, San Francisco Chronicle

Discussion Questions for The Historian

  1. What were your inital feelings toward Turgut?  Did those feelings change as the novel progressed?
  2. What is the significane of Helen and her mother’s dragon tatoos?
  3. Why do you think the author never mentions the name of novel’s narrator?
  4. Paul, an American, and Helen, an Eastern European, have cultural differences but a shared passion of history.  Discuss their relationship.  Did you find their coming together believable?  Why or why not?
  5. What did you think of the ending epilogue?  Will the narrator be able to escape her legacy?
  6. Who is the Historian?
Click image for more info on Vlad Tepes (Dracula)

Vlad Tepes (Dracula)

The Author

Read about Elizabeth Kostova here and  at

  • 2003 Winner of Hopwood Award for Novel-in-progress
  • 2005 Winner of Quill Award for Debut Author of the Year
  • 2005 Nominated for International Horror Guild Award for Best Novel 2005
  • 2006 Winner of Book Sense Book of the Year Award for Best Adult Fiction

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Feel free to add your ideas, comments or book review below.

  1. This is incredible — I came across your site from Elizabeth Kostova’s Facebook page and saw your post on this! My site is at http” and my readalong site at is reading a little over 100 pages of The Historian each week from now through 6 weeks and concluding on Halloween night! Along with standard readalong questions that I’ll be posting, I may want to feature your post as well — I’m so happy I came across your site!

    Comment by Coffee and a Book Chick

  2. I’ll join your read along, Coffee and a Book Chick! Sounds like great fun!

    Comment by Annie

  3. Yay!! It’s going to be a fabulous and creepy good time, I can feel it! 🙂

    Comment by Coffee and a Book Chick

  4. I wanted to share a photo of my charm I bought in Boulder, CO a year ago to ward off any evil eyes that might be headed my way.
    Evil Eye

    Comment by Marilyn

  5. Thanks for sharing your evil eye charm Marilyn. The rear view mirror is the perfect place to hang that charm!

    Comment by Annie

  6. I do not even know the way I ended up right here, but I assumed this publish was great.
    I don’t realize who you are but definitely you’re going to a famous blogger if you happen to aren’t already.

    Comment by Seedbank