This year, I not only want to write more about the books I have read and loved, but I want to write about the writers behind those stories. About how I came to be introduced to their writing and why I’ve continued to add these authors’ books to my shelf. Authors who have inspired my own love of words and writing, who have taught me to see the world a bit differently, and who just write so darn well that their stories cause me to neglect my to-do list.
“To you, perceptive reader, I bequeath my history…”
A couple of years ago, in my hometown, a most splendid event occurred – a bookshop opened. I would later start my bookselling career in that very bookshop, but that is a tale for another time. Back then, I was just another bespectacled bookworm perusing those sacred bookshelves. I had recently finished Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles series, was suffering severe Lestat-withdrawal, and needed a quick fang-fix. I stumbled upon something much, much more engrossing: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. This novel introduced me to the legend of Vlad Tepes, triggered an endless fascination with Eastern Europe (a someday-trip still tops my bucket list), taught me to accept that even though a character might readily share an enthralling and intimate narration of her family history, you might still never learn her name, and made me long for a dragon tattoo long before I met Lisbeth Salander. It also made me an instant fan of the author.
Later that same year, I greedily devoured her second novel, The Swan Thieves, a story of art and obsession, whose characters showed me the many facets of that thing we call love. Again, I found her writing and use of language arresting. Her slow burn plots are intriguing and deeply satisfying, perfect fiction fare for a history junkie such as me. And she doesn’t rush a story – as is evident by those impressive page counts – her narratives unfold slowly, but deliberately. She writes characters you long to meet and draws real life places in ways that make you itch to grab your passport. There’s an intelligence and elegance to her story telling that makes it hard to pull yourself away once you start reading. This year, she will release a third novel, The Shadow Land. Needless to say, I am sinfully excited to get my hands on a copy, come April. It has been seven years since the release of The Swan Thieves and I’m aching to return to the folds of Ms Kostova’s creative mind.
Criticism? She might be a bit too slow on the uptake for some readers. Fast-paced, quick reads you will not find in her repertoire. Her books require a reader’s patience and appreciation for the art of storytelling.
If you have a taste for folklore, the nearly forgotten and haunted histories of Europe, and the characters that inhabit them, Elizabeth Kostova should certainly be on your shelf. Best read on a wintry night, with a cup of Turkish coffee in hand and an eerie wind rattling the windows.