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The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova
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The Shadow Land (edition 2017)

by Elizabeth Kostova (Author)

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1592775,058 (3.56)12
Member:bibliovermis
Title:The Shadow Land
Authors:Elizabeth Kostova (Author)
Info:Text Publishing (2017), 504 pages
Collections:2017, Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:fiction, missing persons, mystery, family, brothers, prison, ptsd, history, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, totalitarianism, bulgaria, art, literature, music, lgbtq, magical realism, multiple perspectives, dog cliche

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The Shadow Land: A Novel by Elizabeth Kostova

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Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
This book was unnecessarily complicated and long, but I enjoyed learning more about the history and culture of Bulgaria. ( )
  mfabriz | Jun 26, 2017 |
"Vivaldi had died at sixty-three, poor, his music no longer in fashion. I had read somewhere that he had probably been buried in a pauper's grave in Vienna. Perhaps he had been put in a sack, too. But not by thugs and criminals, and not before he had composed music like the moon above islands that bristled with churches."

Alexandra has been rather adrift ever since the disappearance and assumed death of her teenage brother years prior. Searching for direction, as an adult she accepts a position teaching English in Bulgaria. However, shortly after her arrival in Sofia, assisting an elderly couple into their taxi results in a piece of their luggage being mixed in with her own. Opening the bag upon its discovery, Alexandra is crestfallen and horrified to find within a small wooden box containing the ashes of a stranger. Obsessed by a need to reunite the family with the urn, Alexandra begins an urgent journey throughout Bulgaria rife with secrets, violence, and sordid political history.

I'm not sure what I was expecting, but not this haunting, devastating, saga of communist Bulgaria. The description for this novel is, I think, intentionally vague, so I'll avoid delving too deeply into the mystery and danger that surrounds this narrative. I was particularly struck by Kostova's depictions of post-Communism Bulgaria, having visited it myself and being similarly affected by the scar of communism on such a beautiful country. However, despite elegance in the story and the prose, portions of this novel felt overwrought with aspects of the plot unnecessarily prolonged. Eloquent, but shy of perfection. ( )
  GennaC | Jun 21, 2017 |
Oops-- missed reviewing this when I finished it. A good read, and taught me a bit about Bulgaria (also made me realize how little I actually knew about the country.) I never entirely connected with the characters, but liked them enough to go through 496 pages with them. The bits that interested me the most, actually were the descriptions of the Bulgarian countryside and village life, and the author's afterword/acknowledgements.

From the publisher: A young American woman, Alexandra Boyd, has traveled to Sofia, Bulgaria, hoping that life abroad will salve the wounds left by the loss of her beloved brother. Soon after arriving in this elegant East European city, however, she helps an elderly couple into a taxi—and realizes too late that she has accidentally kept one of their bags. Inside she finds an ornately carved wooden box engraved with a name: Stoyan Lazarov. Raising the hinged lid, she discovers that she is holding an urn filled with human ashes.

As Alexandra sets out to locate the family and return this precious item, she will first have to uncover the secrets of a talented musician who was shattered by political oppression—and she will find out all too quickly that this knowledge is fraught with its own danger.

Elizabeth Kostova’s new novel is a tale of immense scope that delves into the horrors of a century and traverses the culture and landscape of this mysterious country. Suspenseful and beautifully written, it explores the power of stories, the pull of the past, and the hope and meaning that can sometimes be found in the aftermath of loss. ( )
  bookczuk | Jun 20, 2017 |
The Shadow Land, Elizabeth, Kostova, Author; Barrie Kreinik, Fred Berman, Barbara Caruso, George Guidall, Narrators
It is springtime in 2008 when Alexandra Boyd arrives in Sofia, Bulgaria, to begin teaching at the Central English Institute. She looked forward to being there because she and her brother Jack had often played a game in which they picked a place they would love to travel to, and this was the place he had loved. After an argument with him, while hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains with their parents, he disappeared and was never found. At the time, he was 16, and she was 14 years old. Her thoughts of him are often complicated and emotional.
As the story unfolds over a period of several days, it alternates between her youthful memories of growing up in North Carolina and her present day experiences in Bulgaria. She is now 26 years old, and she is standing in front of a hotel in a country she does not know, where they speak a language she does not understand. She is in a quandary. Her taxi driver has taken her to the wrong place.
As she stood looking up the steps of this unknown, foreign hotel, she spied a few people having some difficulty descending. One of them was in a wheelchair and was quite infirm. A woman she presumed was his wife, stood behind him. A younger man, she presumed was their son, was trying to figure out how to negotiate the stairs with both of them and their luggage. Attracted by that handsome younger man’s demeanor, she offered to help and hurried to their sides. The younger man, Nevin, spoke some English. After their taxi pulled away, she discovered that she was still in possession of one of their bags, a bag which turned out to contain the remains of a cremation. Since Nevin had mentioned that they were going to a monastery, she assumed they were going there in order to bury the urn with the remains of someone called Stoyan Lazarov. She was determined to try and return the urn to them. With the help of another taxi driver, an enigmatic young man named Bobby, she begins her pursuit of the family.
The search for the rightful owners of the urn begins in earnest as they traverse many countrysides and roads in Bulgaria, in what seems to be an unending, unfruitful effort to return the bag and its contents to the Lazarovs. The search often seems to put them in danger. It also seems to endanger the others they have come in contact with who try to help them. Soon there are some violent and frightening moments.
Some parts of the book are much more interesting than others. The first half of the book seems to be about Alex and Bobby and their backgrounds. The second part is about the family that owns the urn and the man whose ashes are in the urn. It was the history of Bulgaria that drew me in and kept me interested when I might have given up on the book. There were several descriptions about the brutality of the Communists after they took over Bulgaria at the end of World War II. Their prison camps and the false accusations and charges presented against the accused will surely remind the reader of the very violence and ferocious viciousness and sadism of the Nazis that they had just defeated. Still, knowing that the Bulgarians had sided with the Nazis, at first, gave me mixed feelings of sympathy for their plight.
Eventually, all of the loose ends are knitted together and the mystery of the bag and its owners is resolved, but it takes a bit too long. The dialog of one of the main characters about his horrendous experience in captivity is too drawn out, too descriptive, and often repetitive. Also, since several characters are telling a piece of the background, it adds to the redundancy of certain parts of the story. I found Alexandra’s character to often be annoying. She tended to melodrama and overly emotional responses. Bobby, on the other hand, seemed more authentic and stable. As the story moves back and forth between the narratives of the different important characters, it also sometimes grew confusing as to where and when the action was taking place. Still, the author does have a way of painting visual images with her sentences which made the book a worthwhile read.
Except for the moments of overdone melodrama, the narrators did a very good job of portraying the individual characters, although a few times, the voice of a character changed suddenly and seemed to become a different character, although the character speaking had not actually changed. Perhaps the age of the character being presented had changed from young adult to older adult or the time had changed from the present to the past, but in those parts of the narrative, it was hard to determine what had just occurred! ( )
  thewanderingjew | Jun 12, 2017 |
Do not read Kostova’s Shadow Land thinking it is in the same vein as The Historian or you will be disappointed. Instead know going in you will not find any suspenseful thrillers, mystical elements from the Historian, movie style action sequences or soap opera drama; what you will find is a poignant and beautiful story about a woman needing atonement for a perceived wrong doing. It is a slow buildup rather than a fast pace attention grabber and when the conclusion comes it does so with a whisper rather than a bang. In fact if you begin to speed read or gloss over sentences, paragraphs or even whole chapters you will miss vitally important story elements because they often happened so quickly I had to reread sections to find what I missed.

This is a story about suffering that accompanies loss and the repentance that follows. It is a story about a woman’s journey to find acceptance with herself and the importance of family. It is a story about a country, its politics, its wars and most importantly its beauty.

Shadow Land is that painting that grabs you as you’re strolling through the museum which you would’ve passed because it’s not as flashy as the other pieces. As you stand there staring at it you feel it speaking to your soul, pulling at you so that it can allow its story to unfold.

Let Shadow Land pull you into its beauty with Kostova’s poetic and descriptive writing style, its lyrical dialogue and long reaching story arch.
( )
  ttsheehan | Jun 5, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345527860, Hardcover)

From the #1 bestselling author of The Historian comes an engrossing novel that spans the past and the present—and unearths the dark secrets of Bulgaria, a beautiful and haunted country.
 
A young American woman, Alexandra Boyd, has traveled to Sofia, Bulgaria, hoping that life abroad will salve the wounds left by the loss of her beloved brother. Soon after arriving in this elegant East European city, however, she helps an elderly couple into a taxi—and realizes too late that she has accidentally kept one of their bags. Inside she finds an ornately carved wooden box engraved with a name: Stoyan Lazarov. Raising the hinged lid, she discovers that she is holding an urn filled with human ashes.
 
As Alexandra sets out to locate the family and return this precious item, she will first have to uncover the secrets of a talented musician who was shattered by oppression—and she will find out all too quickly that this knowledge is fraught with its own danger.
           
Kostova’s new novel is a tale of immense scope that delves into the horrors of a century and traverses the culture and landscape of this mysterious country. Suspenseful and beautifully written, it explores the power of stories, the pull of the past, and the hope and meaning that can sometimes be found in the aftermath of loss.

Praise for Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian
 
“Quite extraordinary . . . Kostova is a natural storyteller. . . . She has refashioned the vampire myth into a compelling contemporary novel, a late-night page-turner.”—San Francisco Chronicle
 
“Hypnotic . . . a thrill ride through history.”—The Denver Post
 
“Part thriller, part history, part romance . . . Kostova has a keen sense of storytelling and she has a marvelous story to tell.”—Baltimore Sun
 
“Kostova’s vampire is no campy Lugosi knockoff. . . . Blending history and myth, Kostova has fashioned a version so fresh that when a stake is finally driven through a heart, it inspires the tragic shock of something happening for the very first time.”Newsweek
 
Praise for The Swan Thieves
 
“Exquisite.”—The Boston Globe
 
“Engrossing.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
 
“Stunning . . . A beautifully written tale of art, love and an obsession triggered by both.”—Associated Press

(retrieved from Amazon Sun, 06 Nov 2016 08:08:34 -0500)

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