Kostova’s latest, The Shadow Land, is about an American woman named Alexandra who travels to Bulgaria to teach English. On her first day there, she accidentally comes into possession of an urn filled with human ashes. Inscribed on the urn is a name: Stoyan Lazarov.
Alexandra befriends a taxi driver named Bobby, and the two of them set off to return the ashes to Lazarov’s family. From there they learn more and more about Lazarov, who was a violinist who spent some time in a prison camp in 1949, as well as his family. They also find themselves embroiled in the current political scene in Bulgaria–and all the possible threat that could entail.
The narrative goes back and forth from focusing on Alexandra, who is still dealing with the death of her brother, to the stories of the people they meet, finally to Lazarov’s time in the labor camp. It’s an extremely rich and layered book, one that gives you time to absorb the characters and their stories. The examination of the prison camps and the dark background of Bulgarian politicians after the fall of communism is particularly heartbreaking. Kostova’s author’s note at the end is worth a read for the background she gives.
Kostova’s writing is elegant and immersive, but never gets bogged down, even with all of the storylines going on. Her word choice is perfect and each sentence is extremely well-crafted. The scene she sets is the next best thing to a trip to Bulgaria.
The Shadow Land is an engrossing, absorbing story with a rich sense of place. Give it a try if you’re in the mood for an enthralling read with lots of layers and a cast of fascinating characters.
You all HAVE to get down to the library and help me read all these scary books I put out on display. Otherwise they’ll just go to waste, sitting there unread.
Here are the books currently waiting for just the right reader to spook:
The Collector by John Fowles
Nos4A2 by Joe Hill
The House of Lost Souls by F.G. Cottam
The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell
The Terror by Dan Simmons
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Mister B. Gone by Clive Barker
(comes with Marie’s “2spooky4me” Halloween Seal of Approval!)
Scowler by Daniel Kraus
Come on down! Or wait until tomorrow, when I plan to hide candy in the display. Either way, there’s plenty of time to read something scary before the big day!
In my review of The Girl With All The Gifts I expressed some good-natured disbelief about how zombies are still A Thing. Imagine my surprise, then, to come across the new novel The Quick only to find that vampires are still A Thing. As with The Girl With All the Gifts, I don’t think I’m spoiling anything to let you know vampires are involved. It’s revealed pretty early on.
I guess vampires are harder to kill than zombies. Particularly when they’re so debonair. And belong to a club.
Now that the affectionate ribbing is out of the way, I can tell you that I enjoyed this novel immensely. It’s got great characters, a nice pace, some swell action scenes, and on top of all that it’s a very well-done piece of historical fiction.
Set in Paris in the late 19th century, The Painted Girls tells the story of the Van Goethem sisters, Marie, Antoinette, and Charlotte. The family is in dire straits after their father dies. Their mother takes work as a laundress, but drinks up most of the profits. It’s up to Marie and Antoinette to take care of themselves, each other, and Charlotte. Marie becomes a dancer at the Paris Opera, while Antoinette takes a job at a theatre. Eventually Marie winds up as a model for the artist Degas, and Antoinette falls in with a young man who is not as wonderful as he seems. Through hardships, challenges, and betrayals of many kinds, Marie and Antoinette remain devoted to one another, leading eventually to a relatively happy ending.