Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian is a story within a story within a story. Sort of. The unnamed narrator, who we are to assume is actually the author per the author's note at the beginning of the book, tells the story of her teenage years in the 1970s after she discovers a mysterious book and set of letters in her father's office. Over a series of trips throughout Europe, her father tells the story of his mentor's search for Dracula around the 1930s, his own in the 1950s, and Dracula's past in the 1400s. They believe that Dracula is still alive, or rather, undead. The book the narrator discovered is centuries old and full of blank pages, except for the center, where there's a woodcut image of a dragon and Dracula's name. Receiving this book leaves the historian (the narrator, her father, his mentor) who received it under the power of overwhelming curiousity and a drive to solve a historical mystery.
There is so much I want to say about this book, but I can't without revealing things that took me soooo long to discover. But I can say that this book is a beast. Not in a bad way, but do not attempt to read this book under any kind of timeline. I can put away one of the longer Harry Potter books in a weekend, but though this book is of a similar page count, it is far more dense. I spent about two weeks reading this (not full time, obviously) and hadn't even made it to the half-way point. I thought about trading this book in for something faster, at least for this assignment, but I was determined to prevail! And it was worth it, in my humble opinion. I really enjoyed this book. It's not really a horror novel, though this Dracula fits that mold better than a sparkly or bar-owning vampire, but it does have an eerie vibe. I think the style may fit a bit more with what Carrie described for her review Bram Stoker's Dracula; it's not racy or terribly graffic, it has a more mysterious or investigative feel, with the addition of a more historical bent.
I think this would be a great entry into the historical genre for non-fiction history buffs or someone who wants to test the waters of the horror genre, without all the gore. The Historian feels a bit more like a psychological thriller, in that there's not a lot of the scary stuff, but the way Kostova writes seemingly mild scenes still impart a sense of general spookiness. It also occurred to me, and this may sound strange, but I think this would be an excellent read while someone is stuck somewhere convalescing or on bedrest, or perhaps on a long European tour (for someone who can't afford a Kindle or pack too many books). But this is definitely not a beach read!
A final thought - one thing I discovered after reading this (through wikipedia, so take from it what you will) was that Kostova's mother was a librarian; suddenly underlying themes started to make a lot more sense.