Rereading my Favourite Book: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Whenever you reopen the pages of your favourite book, whatever it might be, there’s always some sense of fear. What if it isn’t as good as you remember it? How do you reconcile the memory of it with what it is now? Maybe it’s just me, but I’m always terrified of that happening. Certain books, you don’t know want to know if they’ve changed. They function as these lights that you remember leading you through your childhood and they make up a part of how we define ourselves.

I haven’t reread Harry Potter in a long time for that reason. The risk of it turning out to be a story that no longer resonates with you is just too high. On the other hand, reading a book and revisiting old characters is comforting. It’s a warm memory of you as a past reader and of the characters that became friends during lonely nights or when you just needed someone that didn’t exist.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova is one of my favourite books, perhaps it even rates as the vaunted top book of all time. I love everything about it, the way it’s written, the characters, the story itself and the history behind it. Somewhat by accident, I started rereading it again. And I find myself letting out a deep breath of relief – it holds up. Each page entrances me as it did before, and the words are just as beautifully constructed as I remember. It reminds me of how I read it many years ago and how, in my present circumstances, the book is different. Not in a bad way. The story just resonates with me in an entirely different light.

The long and short of it is that I am in love with this book. So much has changed about me since I read it and yet, I recognise myself in how I read, in what catches my eye and what makes me smile. Historical references, little moments of humour and the morbid underlying tone that history, particularly that of Eastern Europe, is full of terrible things that have changed the people who live there. Without trying, I keep finding myself back in the story, back in Budapest, in Istanbul – wondering if my own travels to these destinations were unconsciously influenced by this book. Although I’m only halfway through the read again, I’m planning on taking my time and reminding myself why I love to read. It isn’t to complete a certain amount of books per year or win the ‘Reader of the Year’ award. It’s to feel, to jump into a story headfirst and immersing yourself into the mind of someone else to see where they’ll take you.

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