Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Historian Week 3 Questions and Discussion...

Ahh, Week 3 begins...questions first, pictures below...
  1. What do you think about Turgut's obsession with Dracula and the paintings that have been done?  How does his obsession compare to Paul's and Helen's?
  2. What are your thoughts on the "Dragon" book simply appearing for the characters in the story?  Why do you think these particular characters are the recipients of this book?
  3. There is a lot of discussion on the lack of freedom in Budapest and in Romania during the time that Helen and Paul enter, especially with Paul being an American.  How does this lack of freedom for the citizens affect or compare with the restricting search for Dracula?
  4. In Chapter 39, while in conversation with Helen's aunt, Eva, Paul state "I've always been interested in foreign relations.  It's my belief that the study of history should be our preparation for understanding the present, rather than escape from it."  The seekers of the book are constantly aware of the history being made in their own times and the history that came hundreds of years before their search.  What are some of these events, and why is it important?
  5. What is your FAVORITE part of the book, scene, feeling, etc., thus far?  For example, the majority of the book is told from a written letter format -- do you feel this is difficult to read from, or does it offer more creative flexibility?
Here are a couple of places that were visited throughout this section of the book!






"Turgut's apartment was located in another part of Istanbul, on the Sea of Marmara, and we took a ferry there from the busy port called Eminönü.  Helen stood at the rail, watching the seagulls that followed the boat, and looking back at the tremendous silhouette of the old city.  I went to stand next to her, and Turgu pointed out spires and domes for us, his voice booming above the rumble of the engines."  (Chapter 30)

www.asiaminortours.ie















"It seemed a good opportunity to see something else in Istanbul, so I made my way toward the mazelike, domed Topkapi Palace complex, commissioned by Sultan Mehmed as the new seat of his conquest.  It had drawn me both from a distance ad in my guidebook since our first afternoon in the city.  The Topkapi covers a large area on the headland of Istanbul and is guarded on three sides by water:  the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn, and the Marmara.  I suspected that if I missed it, I would be missing the essence of Istanbul's Ottoman history."  (Chapter 37)

www.wikipedia.org
Harem in Topkapi Palace.  www.pbase.com


"Some communications between us needed no interpreter, anyway.  After another glorious ride along the river, we crossed what I later learned was Széchenyi Lánchid, the Széchenyi Chain Bridge, a miracle of nineteenth-century engineering named for one of Budapest's great beautifiers, Count István Széchenyi.  As we turned onto the bridge, the full evening light, reflected off the Danube, flooded the whole scene, so that the exquisite mass of the castle and churches in Buda, where we were headed, was thrown into gold-and-brown relief.  The bridge itself was an elegant monolith, guarded at each end by lions, couchants, and supporting two huge triumphant arches."  (Chapter 39)


www.tellthetruthtravel.com
University of Budapest

"The next minute we were in sight of the Danube.  It was enormous -- I hadn't been prepared for its grandeur -- with three great bridges spanning it.  On our side of the river rose the incredible neo-Gothic spires and dome of the Parliament Buildings, and on the opposite side rose the immense tree-cushioned flanks of the royal palace and the spires of medieval churches."  (Chapter 38)

Budapest Parliament Building

Yours in profoundest grief,
Coffee and a Book Chick
Tedious & Brief



10 comments:

Heather J. said...

I love that you are posting all these photos - it is a great companion to the reading.

I have to admit that I'm a bit torn at the moment. Part of me can't seem to suspend my disbelief at the enormous amount of coincidences that make up this book. But at the same time I love the writing and the style, and I'm really enjoying the slow building up suspense as the book progresses.

Also, the history buff in me really appreciates the historical tangents that the characters often go off on, but then the story lover in me wonders if all that is really necessary to THIS story.

At this point if someone asked me if I would recommend this book I'd say YES, DEFINITELY ... with a warning that it is a bit wordy and a bit hard to believe ... but still very, very good.

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

1. What do you think about Turgut's obsession with Dracula and the paintings that have been done? How does his obsession compare to Paul's and Helen's?
I think Turgut's obsession has developed over time -- after all, Paul & Helen only recently have gotten involved, and it's only been a few weeks. Perhaps if it had been a few years thus far, they would have been more steeped in the research of it, similar to Turgut and to Professor James as well, when Paul & Helen meet him at the conference.

2. What are your thoughts on the "Dragon" book simply appearing for the characters in the story? Why do you think these particular characters are the recipients of this book?
I'm starting to think it's sort of either a threat to the recipients or an invitation of some sort. I'm not sure why they are getting the books, but I am starting to see a pattern with them being in the history field, or they are professors, etc.

3. There is a lot of discussion on the lack of freedom in Budapest and in Romania during the time that Helen and Paul enter, especially with Paul being an American. How does this lack of freedom for the citizens affect or compare with the restricting search for Dracula?
I feel that the search for Dracula (also the search for Rossi) is almost controlling the seekers now -- similar to how Communism can be looked at in the sense of being controlling its citizens, the people who receive the book really don't have any other choice but to do its bidding, which is to start the hunt. It's almost like they have no control over it.

4. In Chapter 39, while in conversation with Helen's aunt, Eva, Paul state "I've always been interested in foreign relations. It's my belief that the study of history should be our preparation for understanding the present, rather than escape from it." The seekers of the book are constantly aware of the history being made in their own times and the history that came hundreds of years before their search. What are some of these events, and why is it important?
There tends to be a lot of discussion throughout the book about the current history being discussed -- whether it's the Ottomans and the fight against Sultan Mehmed and Vlad Tepes, World War II, Communism, fashion in the '70s, etc., it's always around the characters in some capacity -- which is fitting considering the book is truly about history.

5. What is your FAVORITE part of the book, scene, feeling, etc., thus far? For example, the majority of the book is told from a written letter format -- do you feel this is difficult to read from, or does it offer more creative flexibility?
I am really, really loving the format of the story and my overall favorite element to it is the haunting sense to it all -- I know it can be viewed as slowly told, but I find it to be very Victorian in its storytelling, and I really enjoy it. The letter within a letter within a story type of format is intriguing, and to me it's almost fast-paced in some areas because I'm turning the pages eagerly to see what happens next! I noticed that it was flipping back and forth between the narrator's story and her adventure on trying to track her father down (and now she's with Barley), and her father's story on trying to track Rossi down with Helen, and then it stopped -- no more flipping back and forth and it was back-to-back chapters of Paul and Helen in Budapest and then the mountains in Hungary. So now I'm wondering what's going on with the narrator and Barley!!

tediousandbrief said...

1. I think his obsession is pretty much on par with Helen's and Paul's. Possibly Turgut's is a bit more obsessed (at least in the timeline where Turget currently is a character), but he's had a longer amount of time to be fascinated with this topic.

2. I'm still trying to figure that one out. I'm wondering how many more of these books we'll be seeing, since we do have 1/2 the novel left.

3. I actually was surprised by the freedom in Hungary. When the author mentioned the new freedoms they had in Hungary, I started worrying that possibly they'd get caught in the Hungarian Uprising

I think the lack of freedom complements the lack of concrete information that Paul and Helen seem to have to go on.

4. The history line around Vlad, centuries before is important since it starts the story and gives us the vampire legend.

World War II is mentioned and leads us to the Cold War where Romania and Hungary are under Soviet-style Communism, thus making it more difficult to travel to those countries for Paul.

The upcoming Hungarian Uprising (though the characters do not know it yet since it won't happen for a few years.) Because of that, there seems to be a bit more freedom in Hungary and possibly makes it easier for Paul and Helen to go to Romania.

5. I've read other books with a similar story-telling technique of telling essentially two stories at once (though this book sometimes is telling as many as three). It took a while to get used to, but once I did I've really enjoyed it.

As for my favorite part of the book, I like all of the descriptions locations where they go, such as Istanbul, Budapest, etc. and the sprinklings of history, especially 20th century history.

Those are beautiful photos! It makes me wish I was back in Europe!

Annie @ButteryBooks said...

1. Exactly Coffee and a Book Chick, Turgut is in much deeper than Helen or Paul. Turgut calls Dracula his "eccentric hobby" but I believe the Dracula research is his life.
2. The dragon books are not making random appearances. Greater forces are at work. Turgut, Paul, and Helen are being drawn together. Turgut to Paul and Helen: “How did I come to meet you in the restaurant? I have asked myself this question several times, because I do not have an answer to it, either. But I can tell you in all honesty, my friends, that I did not know who you were or what you were doing in Istanbul when I sat down near your table."
3. Again, Coffee... , I agree completely with your insights.
4. The restrictive, threatening communist regimes add to the heavy, dark, gothic atmosphere of the story.
5. My favorite scene thus far is the Budapest restaurant scene with Paul, Helen, and Aunt Eva. That scene just stuck with me. I loved Aunt Eva's discourses and her asides on history as the different meal courses came out. Aunt Eva is very proud of her adopted country. I loved the interactions between Aunt Eva and Paul who seemed to be sizing each other up during that meal.
I love the letter writing. It allows the story to unfold from a very personal perspective.

Cat said...

Sorry to be so late - its been one of 'those weeks'.

The photographs are wonderful - googling about what I'm reading is adding so much to the story.

The Dragon book is given to people who will want to pursue its meaning. Turgut's obsession is no different from Paul & Helen's - he's just been at it longer.

I agree with what you say about the search and Communism - it's about power and control and lack of freedom of choice.

I haven't ever given much thought to the years between WWII and the Hungarian Uprising so it makes interesting reading.

I love the way the book has been written and the pace. The tension and suspense are constantly building.
My favourite part of the book is the travelling - like being on a treasure hunt and searching for clues.
I have no problem with coincidences - life is full of them. :-)

Trish said...

I only just started reading The Historian and am totally hooked. So I went in search of all things Historian in bookblog world, and here you are! I have some catching up to do . . .

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

I too am truly enjoying the photos!

What do you think about Turgut's obsession with Dracula and the paintings that have been done? How does his obsession compare to Paul's and Helen's?

I have to admit that I am a little suspicious of Turgut at this point...not in a menacing way...but I think there is something he is not telling Paul and Helen. The portrait in his home, Helen's obvious resemblance to the portrait, the way Helen responds to him and his obviously less than secretive obsession with Dracula...I'm wondering if he is somehow a distant relative?



What are your thoughts on the "Dragon" book simply appearing for the characters in the story? Why do you think these particular characters are the recipients of this book?

I don't think this is by accident at all...someone is orchestrating the arrival of the books...and it is certainly no accident that historians are recipients...I still think there is some kid of intricate puzzle that they are supposed to be figuring out.


There is a lot of discussion on the lack of freedom in Budapest and in Romania during the time that Helen and Paul enter, especially with Paul being an American. How does this lack of freedom for the citizens affect or compare with the restricting search for Dracula?

The lack of freedom in the setting makes the mood even more eerie and makes it easier for Dracula to have hidden all these years. What better place to hide than a country(ies) where information is closely guarded.

In Chapter 39, while in conversation with Helen's aunt, Eva, Paul state "I've always been interested in foreign relations. It's my belief that the study of history should be our preparation for understanding the present, rather than escape from it." The seekers of the book are constantly aware of the history being made in their own times and the history that came hundreds of years before their search. What are some of these events, and why is it important?

The "secrets" of the past are the ones that end up being repeated...Stalin, Hitler, slavery, Vietnam, etc...if we don't own up to histoy, then eventually a generation comes along that has no connection to horrific events of our past and simply (like adolescent children who won't listen to their parents' warnings) simply repeat those atrocities.


What is your FAVORITE part of the book, scene, feeling, etc., thus far? For example, the majority of the book is told from a written letter format -- do you feel this is difficult to read from, or does it offer more creative flexibility?

The point of view switches throw me sometimes because reading about the narrator as a young woman and then switching to her fathers' narration and the story within his story takes a little adjustment...but once I got accustomed to the switch, I liked it even better. The narrator's story moves faster than that of Paul's...although I have found myself turning pages quicker in this section of our readalong. I think the slowness adds to the suspense and the gothic surroundings and gives you the feeling of frustration sometimes similar to that of what Paul and Helen must be feeling...so close to the answers yet so far.
It would be difficult to choose a favorite scene but one of my favorites would have to be when the dark cloaked woman was standing in the train station as the narrator and Barley were pulling away...there is so much foreshadowed in her appearance...I have no idea what it is...but I can't wait to find out!

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

Okay, so I finally feel like I'm catching up. Here are my thoughts so far . . .

1. I don't think I quite trust Turgut - he's just a little TOO obsessed, almost like he is a devoted minion and Dracula is his master. His coincidental appearance and sudden friendship and involvement with Paul and Helen's search just seems premeditated, almost sinister? He uses the phrase 'my friends' on Paul and Helen a little too often for my liking. I could be totally wrong on this, but I don't know . . .

2. I think it is an invitation of sorts. But to what? I'm not sure.

3. It just adds another layer or level of difficulty to the puzzle.

4. I love the historical aspect of the book. It makes history so accessible, interesting and fun! I wish my history lessons in school were laid like this. I would have gotten an A ;)

5. I really love this format. It jumps around some, yes, but that's what keeps it from feeling rote. I can't help but think of The Davinci Code which was a fun read but did not have as much personality as this book, I think.

I really like the narrator, so my favorite scenes are the ones with her telling the story.

Trish said...

#4 - sorry, I meant ". . . were laid out like this."

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