Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Historian Week 6 Questions and Discussion...

It is the last week of discussion -- and what a fantastic six weeks it has been -- we had such a big group reading along, and I appreciate everyone's participation!  If you're like me, you also  found many more blogs to follow in just our group...and hopefully a deeper appreciation for The Historian...

What an incredible conclusion to The Historian -- it's no doubt that there are a multitude of questions and thoughts that all of you may have.  I know that although this is the second time that I've read this since it was first published, it still felt like a new read to me, particularly the ending.

Questions:
  1. Why did you think the author finished the story with the epilogue like she did?  
  2. Why do you think Kostova included the small part of the story involving Dracula at the very end of the book?
  3. Do you think she is setting up a sequel?  Would you like to see a sequel?  
  4. Who do you think gave the book to the narrator at the end of the story? 
  5. Were you satisfied with the book and the ending?  If anything, what would you have changed?
Click here to view an incredible travel portfolio of photographs from Vlad Tepes' birthplace, such as the one below.
Vlad Tepes' birthplace, Sighiosara
"The road from Plovdiv was narrow, and it curved along a rocky stream on one side and steep cliffs on the other.  We were making our way gradually into mountains again -- in Bulgaria, you could never be far from mountains.  I remarked on this to Helen, who was gazing out the opposite window in the backseat of Ranov's car, and she nodded.  'Balkan is a Turkish word for mountain.'" (Ch. 67)  Note:  Plovdiv is the second largest city in Bulgaria and the history spans some 6,000 years.

Plovdiv

"The monastery had no grand entrance -- we simply pulled off the road into a dirt lot, and from there it was a short walk to the monastery gate.  Bachkovski manastir sat among high barren hills, partly forested and partly bare rock, close to the narrow river; even in early summer, the landscape was already dry, and I could easily imagine how the monks must have valued that nearby source of water.  The outer walls were the same dun-colored stone as the hills around them.  The monastery roofs were fluted red ceramic tile, like that I'd seen on Stoichev's old house and on hundreds of houses and churches along the roadsides.  The entrance to the monastery was a yawning archway, as perfectly dark as a hole in the ground." (Ch. 67)

Bachkovo Monastery from Mountains


Entrance to Bachkovo Monastery
Monastery
"Ranov seemed to be holding back a triumphant smile. 'No,' he said.  'He has not seen any account of such pilgrims.  There were many pilgrims during that century.  Bachkovski manastir was very important then.  The patriarch of Bulgaria was exiled here from his office in Veliko Trnovo, the old capital, when the Ottomans captured the country." (Ch. 67)

A medieval stronghold in Velika Turnovo

Church in Velika Turnovo
"Ranov shook his head.  'He says he has heard this song before.  He collected it from an old woman in the village of Dimovo, Baba Yanka, who is a great singer there, where the river dried up long ago.  They have several festivals there where they sing these old songs, and she is the leader of the singers.  One of these will be in two days, the festival of Saint Petko, and you may wish to hear her." (Ch. 67)

St. Petka's Days
"One of them had the oddest instrument I had ever seen up close -- a bag made of cleaned white animal skin with wooden pipes sticking out of it.  It was clearly a bagpipe, and Ranov told us that it was an ancient instrument in Bulgaria, the gaida, made of the skin of a goat.  The old man who cradled it in his arms gradually blew it up like a great balloon; this process took a good ten minutes and he was bright red before he'd finished.  He nestled it under his arm and puffed into one of the pipes and everyone cheered and applauded.  It had the sound of an animal, too, a loud bleat, a shriek or squawk, and Helen laughed. 'You know,' she told me, 'there is a bagpipe in every herding culture in the world.'" (Ch. 69)

Gaida Player

"They go together into the tiny scriptorium, where three of the monks sit copying manuscripts, according to the old way, and one carves letters to print a page of the life of Saint Anthony.  The press itself stands in one corner.  It is the first printing press in Wallachia, and Dracula runs a proud hand over it, a heavy, square hand.  The oldest of the scriptorium monks stands at a table, near the press, chiseling a block of wood.  Dracula leans over it.
    'And what will the be, Father?'
    'Saint Mikhail slaying the dragon, Excellency," the old monk murmurs.
    'Rather have the Dragon slaying the infidel,' Dracula says, chuckling." (Epilogue)
St. Michael Fighting the Dragon by Albrecht Durer, 1498

Below is a video of an authentic Bulgarian folksinger -- haunting and beautiful, isn't it?




We have had an amazing time these past six weeks and want to thank you all for participating in this readalong!  Dare I say it but...I know that the reading of The Historian has sparked quite an interest in the Dracula/Vlad Tepes lore.  Wouldn't it be interesting to dive more into the folklore of all the many cultures throughout the centuries worldwide to see if maybe, just maybe...there's more to the legend than just...legend?

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

28 comments:

Beachreader said...

I had a great time reading with everyone. I finished the book early and have attached my review of the book.
http://beachreader48.blogspot.com/2010/10/review-historian.html

WHat are we doing for Thanksgiving :)

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

Beachreader!! Thanks for doing a write up -- I'll be doing a quick write up/recap as well of our readalong. What fun! Hmmm. What should we do for the next one?! :) For some reason, I'm always in the mood for something creepy!! :)

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

1. Why did you think the author finished the story with the epilogue like she did? What a fabulous ending! It certainly left everything open for the next book! I love those kinds of stories where it ends with a bit of an edge to it and makes you think that there will be a second book. Whether or not it actually happens, it's just fun when you close that book to feel the hope that the story will continue.

2. Why do you think Kostova included the small part of the story involving Dracula at the very end of the book? This provided us fantastic insight into the most critical and resurfacing part of the story -- the woodcut images that appear consistently in each invitation or book. Finally, we get to see how it ultimately came about, which historically is incredibly pivotal -- Albrecht Durer was *the* guy for some of these incredible images, woodcuttings, etc. I might have to research him even more so -- and to think that Vlad Tepes even had access to the same monks who designed for Durer!!

3. Do you think she is setting up a sequel? Would you like to see a sequel? I would LOVE to see a sequel, but maybe for this story, it shouldn't be continued. I always get worried that the magic of the first novel for an author is never recaptured in a second attempt, and I really don't want it tainted at all.

4. Who do you think gave the book to the narrator at the end of the story? I really am not sure, which for me, was what made it that edgy suspenseful end to it all. We know Dracula is dead, right...?

5. Were you satisfied with the book and the ending? If anything, what would you have changed? I really liked the ending -- I should say I loved it! And although this is one of my favorite books, I know there is a short section of the book that sort of wanders and is a little bit slow -- but this is my second time reading it. I wonder if perhaps I only noticed the slowness of that one section only because of reading it in sections? When I first read it when it was initially released, I don't recall it being slow at all!

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

I finished a little early as well...here's my review:

http://epkwrsmith.blogspot.com/2010/10/historian-book-review.html

I'm so glad to hear others asking for the next book!! I'm in too!!

Heather said...

I wish I had been able to find the time (and had known about it in time!) to join in this readalong. I adore this book so much. And I love that you posted pictures! It makes me want to read it for the third time! Maybe I can make it to the next readalong. ;)

Heather J. said...

Ok, I have some questions! What the heck is the story with Geza and Ranov? Why were they looking for Dracula? Either I missed something (which is very possible) or this part of the book doesn't make much sense to me.

Other than that, I loved how things came together in the end. I'm really glad that I finally made time to read this book. Thanks so much for hosting - I had a great time with this readalong!

Here's the link to my review: http://age30books.blogspot.com/2010/11/historian.html

Heather J. said...

Oh, and that video?! The sound is so haunting and beautiful ...

Annie @ButteryBooks said...

Count me in too for another readalong!
This book inspires so many questions and discussions from the reader. There are hints and clues, and many different interpretations to be made. I don't know completely what to make of the story, but after much thought, here's where my imaginings lead me:

1. The story never ends, Dracula has ensured that he will continue, through the existence of the dragon books and the narrator.
2. I believe the small part, the memory (?), of Dracula at the end is showing the reader that Dracula has become part of the narrator. She is descended from Dracula, but more importantly, Helen, her mother, was bitten once by the librarian (an initial contamination), then again, after Helen and Paul had consummated their relationship. This second bite occurred possibly after the narrator had been conceived, and given by something more powerful …. Dracula. Later, when confronting Dracula, only the narrator could understand Dracula's commands. Why did Helen never receive the 3rd bite? Was it not necessary for what Dracula wanted to accomplish?
3. No, no, no I do not think this book cries for a sequel. (think GWTW!)
4. The book was given to the narrator by one of Dracula's librarian minions, which starts the cycle anew. Perhaps there was a trigger to release the dragon book, such as the narrator requesting the 1491 Nuremberg pamphlet.
5. Yes, I was satisfied with the ending. I love to finish a book that stays with me and leaves me questioning!
What exactly is the epilogue and prologue telling us? In the epilogue: "history itself reaches inexorably forward for us with its shadowy claw." The last sentence in the book: "He looks instead, the Abbot thinks, as if all the world is before him." Sounds to me that Dracula has orchestrated everything.

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

Why did you think the author finished the story with the epilogue like she did?

The ending is perfect...the cycle continues...Dracula lives through the narrator.


Why do you think Kostova included the small part of the story involving Dracula at the very end of the book?

to show that all of the events of the story happened for a reason...even the parts where seemingly Dracula was in danger of being discovered...in order for the next generation to take over, all of these events had to play out...he was in charge of everything all along and was successful in the end. I also think the narrator has a closer tie to Dracula than we assume as the story plays out...it actually occurred to me that maybe she could be Dracula's daughter rather than Paul's...there is definitely some kind of "genetic" connection.


Do you think she is setting up a sequel? Would you like to see a sequel?


NO...like Annie, I would not want a sequel...this one couldn't have ended better...leave it alone.



Who do you think gave the book to the narrator at the end of the story?

One of the minions who knew what all would unfold and was expecting the narrator at that place and time.


Were you satisfied with the book and the ending? If anything, what would you have changed?

I was satisfied...I wouldn't change a thing...the ending as the rest of the story needed to be haunting...but at the same time, the narrator needed to take the reins...I believe she will be the true Historian.

Cat said...

Thank you so much for a fantastic resding experience. I love readalongs and would certainly look forward to another.

Book like this do make you want to explore further and I picked up a secondhand Bram Stoker last week and also brought home a book from the library called Vlad, the Last Confession so my Dracula reading will continue.


I loved the ending......the epilogue shows that while this story has ended the Dracula one hasn't and it will go on.
I wouldn't want to see a sequel though - this one is perfect as is.

Elisabeth said...

This was a great time! It was my first read along, even though I read at my own pace and was ahead. I loved the pictures and the questions. It raised points I had missed. I am in agreement on not being interested in a sequel. This was enough about Vlad and Dracula for me. So....what's up next?

Elisabeth said...

This was a great time! It was my first read along, even though I read at my own pace and was ahead. I loved the pictures and the questions. It raised points I had missed. I am in agreement on not being interested in a sequel. This was enough about Vlad and Dracula for me. So....what's up next?

ibeeeg said...

I really liked the ending of this book. It was not a tidy ending; things were left undone. Usually, I do not like that, but for this book, I think it worked fabulously.

A sequel? Nah...she was not setting that up. At least I don't think so. I hope she does not put out one because I think there is something said for letting me think and wonder about the ending. By the way, what finally happened to Helen? I am bit confused on that point.

I read this book after read Stoker's Dracula for the first time. Reading Dracula helped give me a background for this book. What I loved best about this book is all the historical aspects of Vlad. The trail of mystery, suspense and discovery was awesome, and kept me waiting for the next turn of events, and unfolding of knowledge gained. This way of storytelling really gave me great insight into the Dracula legend, and gave me an eerie sense.

Trish said...

I loved the ending! It keeps the door a wee bit open for a sequel . . . or not.

The readalong was fun too. All the input and responses helped me clear up some of the hazy parts and get the most out of the whole story.

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

ibeeg Right at the end of Ch.79, before the Epilogue, the narrator mentions thatHelen would pass away nine years later :( The passage reads I could not know then that she would also drift from us at times, not speaking for hours, fingering her neck, or that a wasting illness would take her away for good nine years later -- long before we had gotten used to having her back, although we might never have gotten used to that, might never have tired of the reprieve of her presence. I couldn't foresee that our last gift would be knowing that she rested in peace, when it could have been otherwise, and that this certainty would be both heartbreaking and curative for us.

Then it sounds like Paul took the dagger to the grave the day after. So sad! :(

ibeeeg said...

Thanks for the page and quote. I read that passage over and over. I missed the 9 years later part, or at least it did not sink in. Still, I wonder, if her "contamination" had to do with her wasting away. I think her death adds to the mystery, the intrigue, and the eeriness that was left with me when I closed the book.

Yes, I did gather that Paul went to the grave the day after burial and staked her. Very sad indeed. How terrible for Paul. With him staking her also leads me to believe that she continued to battle a pull, and that Dracula's presence remained. Spooky.

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

ibeeg -- I agree, the definite contamination that she received wasted her away at the end. There is so much mystery to that finality -- and it breaks my heart that Paul went to her grave with the dagger, and especially that he felt that he had to -- just in case...! :(

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