Thursday, March 23, 2006

the historian

Last night I read a book called ‘The Historian’ by Elizabeth Kostova. All 704 pages. In one sitting. Of course, it did involve dinner followed by a late night snack around 3am but I was done by 6am.

Now I’d urge whoever has the time or is looking for a good book to read to go out and get this one. I was actually at Sainsbury getting groceries when I went to the book section as I always do and started looking at titles. I never really buy the fiction there- it’s more the Candice Bundshell variety. I saw ‘Dracula’ written on the back (and everyone knows about my fascination with vampire lore). And it passed the litmus test: I open any given chapter and start reading. If I want to continue- well, it passes. And boy, did I want to continue!

The story involves a daughter finding out about how her father (and mother--- and later grand father) was involved in searching for Dracula, and she gets caught up in the action too. It unfolds through letters, running in parallel, from Prof Rossi to her father, from her father to her, and her own story. But written from a historian POV this book added a very interesting facet to the reading experience: not only does it take the reader through a historical journey through Europe (awakening the travel bug within!) but it delves into the search for Dracula through historical documents which this family of historians chases all over the world. The imagery in this book is fascinating.

A historical adventure is the best kind in my opinion. While the threads are tied with imagination most of the time, it opens up gates into so much of our past that we didn’t know! It is also an exercise in ‘connect the dots’; something we take for granted because our high-school history textbooks come to us connected! This book highlights the process that historians go through, and by all accounts- especially if you are looking for Dracula, this can be a thrilling chase.

A night well spent I must say.

***

In my room in Delhi one wall was filled with books. Sometimes I'd open one and find either my mothers name or my fathers, with a city and a year. I'd wonder where they bought it, a book shop? A street sale? And now every time I buy a book, adding my name and the city and year I picked it up in, I wonder if decades from now, someone else will hazard a guess, "Why did she pick this up? What was she thinking? Did she like it?"

Even if a book isn't about history, it just carries so much history with it.

2 comments:

Dr. Gangs said...

Well written, Mahima!

I carried a broad grin reading your spot on observations about 'connecting the dots' of information, and being fascinated about the year and place when your parents bought a book.

Interestingly, one of my friend's mom records (in pencil) what she felt or was reminded of on the pages of the book, as she reads along.

Rifq said...

mahima...i was reading earlier on....and i know wrong post...but really it's not pseudo...it's a great read....so chill...keep writing.