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The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova

The Shadow Land (edition 2017)

by Elizabeth Kostova (Author)

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9015134,128 (3.45)11
Title:The Shadow Land
Authors:Elizabeth Kostova (Author)
Info:Text Publishing (2017), 504 pages
Collections:2017, Your library
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 15 (next | show all)
Years back I had read Kostova's famous first novel - the Dracula spin-off The Historian. I had greatly enjoyed it, even though, compared to the OTT breathtaking storytelling of the original, it moved at a leisurely pace. Indeed, what has remained with me through this time are not details of plot but, rather, impressions of poetic descriptions, lovingly evocative of the mysteries of the Eastern European setting.

This characteristic resurfaces in Kostova's latest offering, "The Shadow Land". The novel starts with a young American woman, Alexandra Boyd, arriving in Bulgaria, ostensibly to take up a teaching post. In reality, she has a personal reason for settling in this country - she wishes to fulfil the childhood wish of her brother, who had gone missing on a mountain trip and never returned. Through a series of coincidences, Alexandra ends up carrying an urn containing the ashes of one Stoyan Lazarov and spends the rest of the novel trying to give it back to his family, teaming up with a taxi-driver who turns out to be a poet and political activist. Eventually we learn that Lazarov was a gifted violinist and an unlikely dissident under Communist rule. And that his harrowing story could have echoes in the present...

Devoid of the Gothic and supernatural aspects which had given "The Historian" its particular twist, this novel gets off to a slow start, and (at least for me), it never really became a page-turner, even though it is a political thriller of sorts. At first I also felt that it was rather over-written - we get a description of the clothes of every new character and facts about Bulgaria are given to us in a style which is redolent of a tourist guide. It is, however, a novel which grows on you and I liked it much better as it progressed and the different narrative strands started to interweave. I felt that it was at its best in the "historical" chapters containing Lazarov's back-story. As a musician myself, I particularly appreciated the way musical works were described - it's never easy to convey the effects music has on its performers and listeners but Kostova manages to express its wonder and healing power. This alone is enough to make the novel worth reading.

I obtained an electronic copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  JosephCamilleri | Apr 23, 2017 |
I received a free advance review e-copy of this book and have chosen of my own free will to post a review. The author is an excellent storyteller. She reveals to the reader the terrible hidden history of Bulgaria as we learn about ashes in a misplaced urn, the ashes of a man who courageously endured all the atrocities and inhumane treatment inflicted on him in a communist labor camp as a falsely accused political prisoner. We see the crimes and atrocities of the past and how they are carried over into the present political landscape. There is a love story and some very kind and gentle characters as well as some very ruthless characters. There is corruption, deceit, and political activism. This is a very well written book with an exceptional plot and excellent character development. There is a sense of sadness, tragedy, and great loss. The author gives the reader a very colorful and descriptive picture of the Bulgarian countryside. As the main character imagines playing his violin I can almost hear the strains of Vivaldi. This is an excellent piece of historical fiction and well worth the read. I look forward to reading more from Elizabeth Kostova. ( )
  iadam | Apr 22, 2017 |
Alexandra has just move to Bulgaria to teach English. She accidentally ends up with someone else’s bag. The contents of this bag send her searching throughout Bulgaria for the rightful owner.

Alexandra is extremely naive in a new country. I sometimes wanted to pop her upside the head and say “THINK WOMAN!” As she is searching for the owner of the bag, she befriends a strange taxi driver. They travel through Bulgaria in search of the owner of the bag. Many learning experiences later….

This is a winding tale. It is beautifully written just very slow going. It took forever to get anywhere and believe me…we were all over Bulgaria. I enjoyed the historical aspect to the novel. I did not realize the communist history of Bulgaria. I learned a great deal. However, this story meandered way too much for me. Some people enjoy slow soothing reads. This book is for you if that is you taste in reads. I need more action!

I received this novel from Netgalley for a honest review. ( )
  fredreeca | Apr 15, 2017 |
Brilliant, allusive and riveting!

Vividly descriptive narrative flows across the pages of Kostava's work at once both musical and poetical. The opening pages draw you in. A veneer of haunting melody continues to engage.
Alexandra Boyd has come to Bulgaria as a form of penance and a hope for renewal after her beloved brother Jack's death. Bulgaria was the place he'd always wanted to visit. A place from their childhood dreams and games.
An accidental meeting at a taxi ramp in Sofia leads Alexandra to a riveting chase and search across Bulgaria, all the time dogged by her personal loss, whilst uncovering the story of the people she seeks. Finding an funeral urn misplaced with her luggage, shockingly affects Alexandra coming alongside as it does the memory of her own loss. This fuels the impetus for her decision to find the urn's owners. The quest becomes paramount to all else.
This quest has Alexandra on a journey crisscrossing not only the geographical Bulgaria, but the memories of the past under communist rule and the fate of the urn's occupant, Stoyan Lazarov, a talented musician, and that of his family.
Through Stoyan's eyes in the past and his family in the present we see the enforced labor camps under Communist rule and their inhumane overseeing. We see the indomitable human spirit struggle for life when circumstances become too much for the body and soul to hold. The dark days of Stoyan's experiences are lightened by the memory methods he develops to engage a different reality, a separating from the concrete, and the awesome discipline of being somewhere other in the midst of hardship as he fights for survival.
The past is set against the present as Alexandra's journey encounters its own dangers--and joys. Alexandra 'could hear music, where there was no music.' A novel of hope!

A NetGalley ARC ( )
  eyes.2c | Apr 11, 2017 |
Almost from the beginning I found the story problematic, the storyline that leads to the books true purpose struck me as unbelievable. If you visited a foreign country, didn't know the language, stopped to help someone, and found you mistakenly had come to posses the ashes of someone who belongs to the people you helped, would you travel around the country trying to return said ashes? Would you het into a cab, a young man you do not know, and travel back and forth across the country, now mind you no one knows where you are, trying to find these people? I do mean back, and forth for over half the book, a few clues gathered here and there.

On the plus side the descriptions of the country were beautiful, Bulgaria a country I am not very familiar with, but the receptiveness and the tedium of learning the same thing, just in different cities really slowed the pacing. The last third of the book when we learn of the imprisonment of the man who is now ashes, his treatment and the treatment of the other prisoners was the best part, the strongest writing and the most interesting.

In my opinion this book is best suited to those who can suspend belief and accept the basic premise. If you are the type of, person who can pan for gold for four days or so just to come up, with a few nuggets, then this book will work better, it does require patience. Many readers, from some of the ratings, are these type of readers, I am not. Grab me quick and don't let go is my reading motto.

There were some nuggets of gold here, the music, Vivaldi being a safe place and I adore that musicians music. The scenery as I said was gorgeous, learning a bit about a country new to me, all pluses and some of this countries history.. Just don't know if I would have had the patience to persevere to discover these if this wasn't a buddy read with Angela and Esil.

ARC from publisher. ( )
  Beamis12 | Apr 8, 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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