Saturday, January 4, 2014

House of Bathory by Linda Lafferty

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: January 2, 2014

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. Inspired by the actual crimes of Elizabeth Báthory, The House of Bathory is another thrilling historical fiction from Linda Lafferty (The Bloodletter’s Daughter and The Drowning Guard). The novel carries readers along with suspense and the sweep of historical events both repellent and fascinating.

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Elizabeth Báthory
Known as the Blood Countess, Elizabeth Báthory is one of history's most prolific serial killers. Formally charged for only eighty deaths, evidence, supposedly written in her own hand, suggests more than six hundred women fell victim to her sadistic obsession. 

The legend surrounding Elizabeth serves as the foundation of Linda Lafferty's House of Bathory, but much like Holly Luhning's Quiver, the book itself is a modern day mystery with supporting historic content.

To her credit, Lafferty spends a lot time in seventeenth century Hungary, exploring Elizabeth's world through Zuzana and Janos. This approach allowed Lafferty to examine the period in a way I'd not seen before, but I can't deny feeling cheated as it prevented her from really digging into the countess' character.

The modern story didn't really appeal to me. Betsy, Daisy, Grace, etc. didn't feel as authentic as the historical cast and the situational drama, particularly towards the end of the narrative, was simply too hard to swallow. I understood what Lafferty was getting at, synchronicity and all, but I don't particularly care for the theory and as such, found little to appreciate in the ultimate resolution.

Now I know what you're thinking. Sychcro what? I'd not heard of it either, but as it is so essential to the story, I took it upon myself to do a little research on Carl Jung, his psychological study of dream analysis and the concept of synchronicity. I won’t bore you with the details, but understand a fundamental comprehension of these subjects is vital to interpreting the underlying themes of the Lafferty's work. 

I can't stress this enough folks. Eight of twelve titles in the bibliography are entirely irrelevant to Báthory and in the acknowledgments section, Lafferty actually states "Carl Jung’s psychoanalytic methods and The Red Book were a springboard for this novel. Jung’s perspective on mental illness, psychology, and synchronicity helped me to look for interconnections among characters, past and present."

Highly creative, but not at all what I expected. 

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“Keep silence!” snapped Kovach, whirling around to face the cook. “If you value your life, you will forget what you see...”
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