Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Historian

I just removed The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova from my wishlist.

After I first learned of the book, I was all excited to read it. I found it in the bookstore, opened it to the middle and realized it’s a first person account. I don’t care for the first person point of view, so I put the book back. I wasn’t going to spend all that money on something I might not like. I requested it from my local library instead. I finally, finally got a copy this week.

I immediately neglected my housewifely chores and kids – we ate take-out that night – and immersed myself in the book. It wasn’t much of an immersion. I got to chapter four. I have not read past chapter four. Well, that’s not entirely true. I thumbed through the book (tome) and read bits here and there. It’s what I do in the bookstore. I rarely ever look at the first page. I go for the guts of the story and see if anything catches my eye. If nothing jumps out at me, I read the first page.

So I read parts of different chapters here and there, but nothing grabbed my attention. I had a very difficult time reading past the punctuation. Large parts of the book are told to the narrator, accounts of past incidents are recited to her. That means large parts of the book are quoted. And that means there are a lot of these things:

“’Hugh said as much,’ I muttered.
“’I’ll explain later. Go on.’
“’Well, ….'

I seldom read with a reader’s eye; most of the time I read with a writer’s eye or an editor’s eye. I take note of word choices, sentence syntax, punctuation, things like that. And when I read, the reader in me was jarred by all the quotation marks.

This book was Elizabeth Kostova’s debut effort. She received a 2.2-million-dollar advance for it.

I just couldn’t get excite by it. The writing was flawless, but it didn’t sparkle for me; add the first person point of view … I will be returning it to the library later today, and I feel saddened by that. A book is meant to be read.

1 comment:

Piet Bach said...

Debut effort? $2.2 million advance? Am I in Cloud Cuckoo Land, or is this the real modern world? I could point to someone who deserves soon to have a debut effort on the stands (purely because she's such a good writer) and suggest that she hold out for $2.2 million, but I won't, Nadja -- I'll be good.