In the early 1600s, Elizabeth Báthory, the infamous Blood Countess, ruled Čachtice Castle in the hinterlands of Slovakia. During bizarre nightly rites, she tortured and killed the young women she had taken on as servants. A devil, a demon, the terror of Royal Hungary — she bathed in their blood to preserve her own youth. 400 years later, echoes of the Countess’s legendary brutality reach Aspen, Colorado. Betsy Path, a psychoanalyst of uncommon intuition, has a breakthrough with sullen teenager Daisy Hart. Together, they are haunted by the past, as they struggle to understand its imprint upon the present. Betsy and her troubled but perceptive patient learn the truth: The curse of the House of Bathory lives still and has the power to do evil even now.
The story, brimming with palace intrigue, memorable characters intimately realized, and a wealth of evocative detail, travels back and forth between the familiar, modern world and a seventeenth-century Eastern Europe brought startlingly to life.
©2013 Linda Lafferty (P)2013 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved.
Unafraid to read from any genre.
After reading The Bloodletter's Daughter, I was interested in reading this new novel by Linda Lafferty, which also deals with characters in the age of Rudolph II. I thought the conception of this story was very ambitious. Ultimately, I think it did not create very sympathetic characters, which is very important if you expect to keep a reader's attention in a back and forth, whiplash plot scheme. The present-day plot was less interesting to me than the one taking place in the the Countess's castle. Ultimately, however, I think the effort falls short on the work of the narrator Kathleen Gati. Gati does accents well, by she doesn't breathe life into the story, failing Lafferty's prose time after time. A good narrator can take a so-so book like this and sell it too us, make us believe in its quality and value. But here, we get just the opposite: a terrible job of narration that does severe damage to the writer's work, cheapening it. How did I manage to finish the entire story, you ask? By listening to it on an advanced speed, allowing the narrator's annoying habits to be submerged in a rapid processing of words.
Lafferty's novel was a pleasant surprise. I listened / read somewhat unsure if the plot — a dual time period piece — was going to be good, as my experience with such plots has not always been great. I found myself as equally engaged with both storylines, and I found both to be equally well researched. The historical plot is the story of the Countess Erzebet Bathory, an infamous female serial killer 1600's Slovakia. While not the most known story, I found it as chilling as any of the more well know stories of horrible individuals. Bathory was found guilty of murdering serving girls (some estimates as high as 650) and bathing in blood (she said it help to retain her beauty and youth.) The history is stranger than fiction, and is the origin of some vampire stories, yet Lafferty does a good job at showing her insanity, the fear of those around her, and the political complexities of bringing her to justice.
Additional to that story is the contemporary story of an Jungian Psychoanalyst who has followed in her famous fathers' footsteps but seems discontent with her practice. Her father had died some years before and her relationship with her mother is strained. Betsy Pathe takes on a new client, Daisy, a teenage goth girl who is having unexplained choking episodes. Daisy opens up, mostly because she gets fascinated by Jung's theories, but Betsy's mother disappears in Slovakia while researching Erzabeth Bathory, forcing Betsy to suspend Daisy's sessions.
Betsy and her ex-husband go look for her mother and in the US, Daisy sees someone break into Betsy's office, and eventually sees someone digging up Betsy's father's grave. Daisy discovers a ledger of names and is worried about Betsy, based on dreams and feelings. In what seems like a patient over-identifying with their therapist, she ends up running off to Slovakia, where a descendant of the countess, whom we learn, was treated by Betsy's father may be responsible for the disappearance and murder of local girls from Goth clubs, has kidnapped Betsy's mother in hopes of regaining the ledger.
As the connections and parallels between the historical and contemporary story build, and the connections between the characters themselves become clear, the tension and pace increase. The contemporary story does a good job explaining some of Jung's theories and gives us not one, but two psychotic characters. There are two characters who are struggling with repressed memories and a strained relationship, and two characters who feel they have nothing in common and don't understand each other, and all of them have a host of hurt that no one talks about.
The historical story does a decent job of painting a detailed world of the time and setting, and the characters are well done. (I listened to the audiobook for a significant portion of the book and I found it helped with the unfamiliar names, and the narrator did well with the accents to convey a sense of the rhythm and sounds of the language.) The contemporary characters were sympathetic and well rounded.
While the coincidences were contextualized by placing them in light of Jung's theory of Synchronicity (the idea that there are meaningful coincidences that are indicative of the collective unconscious or subconscious connections to others or places or dreams etc. and are not coincidental at all) but I did find it straining credibility in a few places.
Overall, it was a good read... and the Bathory antagonists were suitably frightening in their psychosis.
The book started out well, but as I read further, it began to drag. By the ending I felt as though I had been transported to a " Hardy Boys " mystery. Disappointed.
I was disappointed with this read.
I did not enjoy it at all and even though I tried I could not get into it.
It was not my usual type of book to read but as the story was based on fact though it would be good but I was wrong.
I'm sure there will be many people who will find it an excellent read but not me.
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