Reading guide for The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

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The Historian

by Elizabeth Kostova

The Historian
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2005, 656 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2006, 688 pages

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Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. In the "Note to the Reader," the narrator tells us, "There is a final resource to which I have resorted when necessary--the imagination." How does she use this resource in telling her story? Is it a resource to which the other historians in the book resort, as well?

     
  2. The theme of mentors and disciples is an important one in the book. Who are the story's mentors, and in what sense is each a mentor? Who are the book's disciples?

     
  3. Near the end of Chapter 4, Rossi says, "Human history's full of evil deeds, and maybe we ought to think of them with tears, not fascination." Does he follow his own advice? How does his attitude toward history evolve in the course of his own story?

     
  4. In Chapter 5, Paul's friend Massimo asserts that in history, there are no small questions. What does he mean by this and how does this idea inform the book? Do you agree with his statement?

     
  5. Helen and Paul come from very different worlds, although they share a passion for history. How have their upbringings differed? What factors have shaped each?

     
  6. Throughout the book, anyone who finds an antique book with a dragon in the middle is exposed to some kind of danger. What does this danger consist of? Is it an external power, or do the characters bring it upon themselves?

     
  7. Each of the characters is aware of some of the history being made in his or her own times. What are some of these real historical events, and why are they important to the story?

     
  8. At the beginning of Chapter 1, Paul's daughter notes, "I had been raised in a world so sheltered that it makes my adult life in academia look positively adventurous." How does she change as a person in the course of her quest?

     
  9. Helen's history is deeply intertwined with that of Dracula. In what ways are the two characters connected? Does she triumph over his legacy, or not?

     
  10. In Chapter 73, Dracula states his credo: "History has taught us that the nature of man is evil, sublimely so." Do the characters and events of the novel prove or disprove this belief?

Reprinted with the permission of the publisher, Little, Brown & Co. Page numbers refer to the hardcover USA edition and may vary in other editions.

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Back Bay Books. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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