Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Historian Week 1 Questions and Discussion...

How thrilled we are to begin our first fireside chat on The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova!  I do so hope that you've experienced a thoroughly enjoyable week of reading the first 14 chapters of this creepy story...and has anyone been to Romania?

Thoughtful Reminders...
  • You do not have to answer all of the questions!
  • Please add the appropriate question number to your answers in the comments field.  You can also copy and paste the question into the comments field as a reference.
  • If you have read ahead, remember to not include spoilers in your comments.
  • When you add your answers, don't forget to click the check box so that you are notified of others' responses.
  • Feel free to blog about this week, remind your readers that they can join at any time, and grab the button to post to your blog's sidebar!
Week 1 Questions...
  1. The Historian was published in 2005, but the initial note to the reader is dated in 2008. Why do you think the timing was constructed in this manner for the first readers in 2005?
  2. Did you notice that the narrator's name is not identified?  We know the name of everyone else but not her name.  Why is that?
  3. The narrator is obviously much more mature than her sixteen years would normally imply, and especially in comparison to her peers during 1973.  Why do you feel that the author chose such a young age to represent this character who is learning such incredibly unbelievable information?
  4. When it is learned that "Dracula lives among us today," (p. 26), does this truly mean that Dracula is alive amongst us, or merely that folklore and superstition keep his legend and name alive?
  5. Whoever receives the book encounters grave danger.  Are they putting themselves in danger willingly because of their own interest in the research, or does it naturally come about from a true evil that has selected them?
  6. Professor Rossi's friend, Hedges, is attacked and suffers a stroke as a result. As Professor Rossi waits for help, he asks Hedges who attacked him and Hedges's responds with a message that, "he will brook no trespass."  What does that mean?
  7. On p. 88, Paul states that he's not interested in the occult, only that he's interested in finding Rossi. Do you think this is true?
More than enough questions to get our conversation going!  Feel free to also take a look at the below link which provides some wonderful historical background on Wallachia, Vlad Tepes, the Order of the Dragon, among other details...click The Historical Dracula to visit the site.

Historical Note:  The image above represents the Order of the Dragon, in which "drac" in Romanian can either mean a dragon or the devil.  Vlad the Impaler's father was initiated into the Order of the Dragon, which was a secret fraternal order of knights who were committed to uphold Christianity against the Turks.

We look forward to your thoughts on the above questions to get our chat started....

Yours in profoundest grief,

16 comments:

Beachreader said...

Good thought provoking questions. I am especially intrigued by questions 5 & 6. They seem to me to contradict each other. I think that something has choosen each researcher for a purpose not yet disclosed to answer question 5, but I'm not sure if it's evil. I do think that the quote "he will brook no trespass" is in reference to Dracula and he is trying to stop the researchers from continuing their quest.

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

1. The Historian was published in 2005, but the initial note to the reader is dated in 2008. Why do you think the timing was constructed in this manner for the first readers in 2005?
I noticed this and was at first confused by it and even thought that I had read something incorrectly. Right now I think that it must have something to do with the mindset of the first 14 chapters...the reaching back in time and history reaching forward for us...it will be interesting to revisit this particular question after we've completely finished the story.

Did you notice that the narrator's name is not identified? We know the name of everyone else but not her name. Why is that?
I noticed this as well but unconsciously more than consciously...I've had to look back a couple of times to keep track of whether the storytelling character and/or letter writer is Rossi or her father...

The narrator is obviously much more mature than her sixteen years would normally imply, and especially in comparison to her peers during 1973. Why do you feel that the author chose such a young age to represent this character who is learning such incredibly unbelievable information? A younger character who has been brought up in an adult world would have a more open mind and also the intelligence to handle the information. Maybe she will be the one who will finally be able to solve the puzzle.


When it is learned that "Dracula lives among us today," (p. 26), does this truly mean that Dracula is alive amongst us, or merely that folklore and superstition keep his legend and name alive?
I think that somehow he is "alive"...whether it's through some kind of spirit that lives through others or as a solid being, I have no idea right now but I do think it's more than just a legend.

Whoever receives the book encounters grave danger. Are they putting themselves in danger willingly because of their own interest in the research, or does it naturally come about from a true evil that has selected them?
They have been chosen. Both Rossi and her father don't even try to fight the choices...obviously they know how futile a fight would be.


Professor Rossi's friend, Hedges, is attacked and suffers a stroke as a result. As Professor Rossi waits for help, he asks Hedges who attacked him and Hedges's responds with a message that, "he will brook no trespass." What does that mean?
I think that whatever the spirit is, there is certain info that is supposed to be uncovered and other info that is supposed to be left alone...as long as the chosen is on track, all is well. But, if the chosen historian stumbles or is distracted by info that the spirit doesn't want exposed, the trouble begins. I think the message is "do what I tell you to do, or else."

On p. 88, Paul states that he's not interested in the occult, only that he's interested in finding Rossi. Do you think this is true?
At that point in the story, yes. He is emotional still and wants very much for Rossi's disappearance to be solved with Rossi alive

Peppermint Ph.D. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tediousandbrief said...

2. I noticed that! I think partly this is because the narrator is writing the story to us and also to keep a bit of mystery for the reader. Since the narrator is not named, the reader can more easily paint themselves into that roll as they read.

3. I would imagine it's because children and young adults are usually seen both as more open to supernatural aspects (think of the fear that kids can have of the "boogyman") and that because she's of the age when she naturally would be a student, though old enough to seem adult-ish if need be.

4. This is something I've gone back on a few times while reading it. I'm still undecided.

5. I'm going with the later.

6. I felt it was a message from the attacker/Vlad that he wanted to be left alone and not found and disturbed.

Heather J. said...

First - I'm LOVING this book! Thank you for organizing the read-a-long b/c I know I would have continued to put off reading it.

Also, I think the pacing works very well in this book. The story is slow moving and jumps back and forth in time, but the build-up of tension is even more dramatic for all that.

On the questions ...

2 - is it bad that I totally did not notice this? It just never occurred to me.

3 - Maybe b/c a younger person would be less concerned with or aware of the repercussions of digging into such dangerous history?

I cannot wait to continue reading!

Cat said...

1. How unobservant of me - I never noticed.

2. I particularly did notice this and found it quite frustrating for a while. I kept waiting for someone to call her by name but it hasn't happened.I'm not sure why but maybe it's a way to make the reader feel they are the 'I'.

3. Her youth makes her curious and open to experience without the fears that come as you grow older.

4. It has to be more than a legend because something/someone, a force for evil, is committing these horrible acts.

5. Yes, the latter, I think. And they will have been selected because they are researchers who will always want to look for answers.

6. It's like a warning to 'keep out of my business'

7. Yes

I'm really enjoying the story and can't wait to continue. I love all the travelling and googling the places they go to.

Heather J. said...

Cat - I thought the same thing about question #1 ... glad to see it wasn't just me who missed that. :)

Annie @ButteryBooks said...

Great questions!

1.)Why do you think the timing was constructed in this manner for the first readers in 2005? The story moves all over the timeline and the reader, in 2005-2007 becomes part of that history.

2.) Did you notice that the narrator's name is not identified? We know the name of everyone else but not her name. Why is that? I did notice this and in fact turned back thru the pages to see if I had missed something. The narrator does not identify herself because as she states herself she has devoted her time "to the writing of books of a historical and mainly impersonal nature. Even though this story does affect her personally, she is trying to present it from an historian's view.

3.)The narrator is obviously much more mature than her sixteen years would normally imply, and especially in comparison to her peers during 1973. Why do you feel that the author chose such a young age to represent this character who is learning such incredibly unbelievable information? The narrator has traveled extensively, is an only child used to being around adults. We also have to remember this story is being recounted from the perspective of the now 52 year old narrator. The narrator at age 16 is still dependent upon her father yet she is old enough for her father to take her into his confidence.

4.)When it is learned that "Dracula lives among us today," does this truly mean that Dracula is alive amongst us, or merely that folklore and superstition keep his legend and name alive? Professor Rossi believes Draula is living.

5.)Are they putting themselves in danger willingly because of their own interest in the research, or does it naturally come about from a true evil that has selected them? It seems to me that at this point in the novel it is their research that is the opening or conduit for the evil.

6.)Professor Rossi's friend, Hedges, is attacked and suffers a stroke as a result. As Professor Rossi waits for help, he asks Hedges who attacked him and Hedges's responds with a message that, "he will brook no trespass." What does that mean? Dracula will not tolerate exposure of tomb.

7.)On p. 88, Paul states that he's not interested in the occult, only that he's interested in finding Rossi. Do you think this is true? Paul is desperate to find his mentor but I do believe it is the interest in the occult that set things in motion.

Annie @ButteryBooks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amanda said...

1. Wow, I must be oblivious because I didn't notice the difference in dates. I'm wondering if it has something to do with "the historian" aspect of looking into the past to help the future. Honestly though, I have no clue.

2. I think withholding the narrator's name keeps it more intimate as well as providing some mystery. We are truly experiencing the story from her perspective.

3. I think this is a funny question because I keep thinking that she's younger than 16. Maybe 12 or 13. I think that no doubt she is smart because of her upbringing but she is very young and inexperienced in "life" stuff for her age. For instance, she first gets her period and I remember wondering, really? At 16? Isn't that a bit late?

4. I assumed that they meant "truly" amongst them. As in haunting or physical presence.

5. Good question! I think it is a bit of both. Obviously the researcher has to be a certain type of historian to delve into the macabre...or maybe not?

6. This was a weird part. It's as if Dracula wants to be discovered by having clues, the books, and keeping the main characters alive. But then he warns them by killing Hedges. Interesting.

7. No. I think he is truly interested in both.

** Did you notice at one part, I forgot the page, that she stated she was scared of swans? I thought that was an interesting tidbit considering Kostova's next book The Swan Thieves.

GeraniumCat said...

I'm coming late to the discussion as I've been without the interwebz for a few days - great for me because I've got all these perceptive comments for help!

I feel that the book is taking quite a time to really get going, but I am enjoying it. It's been good to stop and consider what I've read so far rather than simply racing on the way I usually do. Three questions stood out for me:

2.) Did you notice that the narrator's name is not identified? We know the name of everyone else but not her name. Why is that?
I think Annie's point about the narrator's intention to write as a historian is very apposite. My own feeling had been that the lack of name combined with the narrator's young age made her more of a tabula rasa for the events to be written on - a naive recorder of the facts. This is mitigated by the distance from those events (assuming they all happen to her when she's that age...?) so I think the historian's perspective is very important.

5.) Are they putting themselves in danger willingly because of their own interest in the research, or does it naturally come about from a true evil that has selected them?
That's an interesting question - they do seem to have been selected, but there's clearly choice in following it up. For Paul it's easy to disguise his interest to himself because he genuinely wants to find Rossi. For the narrator, it's clear that she found the book rather than it finding her (unless we think that she was drawn to it).

6.) As Professor Rossi waits for help, he asks Hedges who attacked him and Hedges's responds with a message that, "he will brook no trespass." What does that mean?
As Amanda says, it's odd that Dracula seems to want people to look for him and
yet he kills Hedges. Are only a chosen few permitted to find him? It depends what's happened to Rossi.

Most of these questions just throw up more questions at the moment! I'm looking forward to the next part to see whether some of them are answered.

Nise' said...

2. I noticed that the daughter was not named and since I was listening on audio, I stopped by the book store and quick paged through the first few pages to see if I could find her name.

3. My answer is almost identical to Annee's, so ditto.

5. It seems that they cannot help but be involved and I keep going back and forth as to the why.

A few days ago I was walking early in the morning on an overcast day so it was still a bit dark and I had to switch to another book on my iPod as I was getting creeped out looking over my shoulder!!! I loved it.'o)

Amanda - I did catch that!

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

1. The Historian was published in 2005, but the initial note to the reader is dated in 2008. Why do you think the timing was constructed in this manner for the first readers in 2005?

I'm still figuring this one out and admittedly I find myself wondering if the answer will come to light by the end of the book!

2. Did you notice that the narrator's name is not identified? We know the name of everyone else but not her name. Why is that?

I see it as a simple literary technique to evoke more mystery about the book. Putting myself in the narrator's position, however, I can't help but think that if all this information has come to her and her father and his predecessors came into such trouble, I wouldn't want my name out there for all to read, either. :)

3. The narrator is obviously much more mature than her sixteen years would normally imply, and especially in comparison to her peers during 1973. Why do you feel that the author chose such a young age to represent this character who is learning such incredibly unbelievable information?

Partly due to her maturity and also because she is young enough for this Dracula mystery to devote a long life to investigation. Just guesses on my part.

4. When it is learned that "Dracula lives among us today," (p. 26), does this truly mean that Dracula is alive amongst us, or merely that folklore and superstition keep his legend and name alive?

Oh, I took this literally. I surmised this to be a book about vampires, so it follows that this line opens up the full horror of what the novel is about.

5. Whoever receives the book encounters grave danger. Are they putting themselves in danger willingly because of their own interest in the research, or does it naturally come about from a true evil that has selected them?

A little of both. The book clearly selects them (I'm anxious to find out why). But their unnatural obsession with researching the book rather than just discarding it puts them in danger as well.

6. Professor Rossi's friend, Hedges, is attacked and suffers a stroke as a result. As Professor Rossi waits for help, he asks Hedges who attacked him and Hedges's responds with a message that, "he will brook no trespass." What does that mean?

This is interesting because the book clearly "chose" Rossi yet he and his loved ones are punished when he pursues it. Indicates that there are both good and evil forces at work here.

7. On p. 88, Paul states that he's not interested in the occult, only that he's interested in finding Rossi. Do you think this is true?

Yes and no. I don't think he is interested in the occult, per se. He simply can't help but be drawn into a subject that, coincidentally, is of the occult. I think Paul would have investigated whether Rossi went missing or not.

I'm really anxious to see how the author ties this all together and explains a lot of this by the end of the novel!

Michele at Reader's Respite said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michele at Reader's Respite said...

1. The Historian was published in 2005, but the initial note to the reader is dated in 2008. Why do you think the timing was constructed in this manner for the first readers in 2005?

I'm still figuring this one out and admittedly I find myself wondering if the answer will come to light by the end of the book!

2. Did you notice that the narrator's name is not identified? We know the name of everyone else but not her name. Why is that?

I see it as a simple literary technique to evoke more mystery about the book. Putting myself in the narrator's position, however, I can't help but think that if all this information has come to her and her father and his predecessors came into such trouble, I wouldn't want my name out there for all to read, either. :)

3. The narrator is obviously much more mature than her sixteen years would normally imply, and especially in comparison to her peers during 1973. Why do you feel that the author chose such a young age to represent this character who is learning such incredibly unbelievable information?

Partly due to her maturity and also because she is young enough for this Dracula mystery to devote a long life to investigation. Just guesses on my part.

4. When it is learned that "Dracula lives among us today," (p. 26), does this truly mean that Dracula is alive amongst us, or merely that folklore and superstition keep his legend and name alive?

Oh, I took this literally. I surmised this to be a book about vampires, so it follows that this line opens up the full horror of what the novel is about.

5. Whoever receives the book encounters grave danger. Are they putting themselves in danger willingly because of their own interest in the research, or does it naturally come about from a true evil that has selected them?

A little of both. The book clearly selects them (I'm anxious to find out why). But their unnatural obsession with researching the book rather than just discarding it puts them in danger as well.

6. Professor Rossi's friend, Hedges, is attacked and suffers a stroke as a result. As Professor Rossi waits for help, he asks Hedges who attacked him and Hedges's responds with a message that, "he will brook no trespass." What does that mean?

This is interesting because the book clearly "chose" Rossi yet he and his loved ones are punished when he pursues it. Indicates that there are both good and evil forces at work here.

7. On p. 88, Paul states that he's not interested in the occult, only that he's interested in finding Rossi. Do you think this is true?

Yes and no. I don't think he is interested in the occult, per se. He simply can't help but be drawn into a subject that, coincidentally, is of the occult. I think Paul would have investigated whether Rossi went missing or not.

I'm really anxious to see how the author ties this all together and explains a lot of this by the end of the novel!

Michael Angelo Racelis said...

"brook no trespasses"

Brook no trespasses means will not put up with, endure, tolerate offenses or sin.

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