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The Bloodletter's Daughter (A Novel of Old Bohemia) [Kindle Edition]

Linda Lafferty
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,628 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Within the glittering Hapsburg court in Prague lurks a darkness of which no one dares speak…

In 1606, the city of Prague shines as a golden mecca of art and culture carefully cultivated by Emperor Rudolf II. But the emperor hides an ugly secret: His bastard son, Don Julius, is afflicted with a madness that pushes the young prince to unspeakable depravity. Desperate to stem his son’s growing number of scandals, the emperor exiles Don Julius to a remote corner of Bohemia where the young man is placed in the care of a bloodletter named Pichler. The bloodletter’s task: cure Don Julius of his madness by purging the vicious humors coursing through his veins.

When Pichler brings his daughter Marketa to assist him, she becomes the object of Don Julius’s frenzied—and dangerous—obsession. To him, she is the embodiment of the women pictured in the Coded Book of Wonder, a priceless manuscript from the imperial library that was the mad prince’s only link to sanity. As the prince descends further into the darkness of his mind, his acts become ever more desperate, as Marketa, both frightened and fascinated, can’t stay away.

Inspired by a real-life murder that threatened to topple the powerful Hapsburg dynasty, The Bloodletter’s Daughter is a dark and richly detailed saga of passion and revenge.



Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A Q&A with Linda Lafferty

Question:
The Bloodletter's Daughter takes place during the 17th-century reign of the Hapsburg Empire in Old Bohemia. What intrigued you about this period?

Linda Lafferty: Prague, not Vienna, was the seat of the Holy Roman Empire and the center of Europe during Rudolf II's lifetime. Yet relatively little historical fiction has been written about Prague and Bohemia. The sciences, especially astronomy, lit up Rudolf II's court--he collected art and rare plant species from all over the world. But witchcraft, alchemy, and superstition were rampant and religious persecution existed, despite Rudolf II's relatively lenient mindset on faith. When my husband and I hiked through the Czech Republic in 2005, we spent a couple of days in Cesky Krumlov, a Bohemian village. I learned the tale of Rudolf II's mad bastard son, Don Julius, who became romantically involved with Marketa Pichler, a bath maiden in the bathhouse at the foot of Rozmberk Castle.

Q: How much were you able to find out about Marketa? Did she really have secret ambitions to become a doctor?

LL: She was the daughter of a town barber. At that time, barbers were also barber-surgeons, or bloodletters. The villagers relied on the barber to relieve their ailments by balancing the four "humors." The subplot of Marketa's wanting to become a doctor was fiction. Her real story was so sad. She did have the nickname "muscle," and that slur on a 16-year-old made me angry. In my novel, I wanted to lift her up from the sordid life she lived while exploring the relationship between science, religion, and witchcraft.

Q: Marketa is both reviled and fascinated by Don Julius in your book. Do you think she truly fell in love with him?

LL: Given how cruel and difficult life was during the 17th century, I am certain that Marketa--and especially Marketa's family--was desperate to have a relationship with a Hapsburg. She did endure horrible treatment at the hands of Don Julius. They were lovers. Her mother did deliver her to Rozmberk Castle.

Q: The Bloodletter's Daughter touches on the schism between old-fashioned healing practices (bloodletting and witchcraft) and modern medicine. Did you intend for Marketa to embody this duality?

LL: Absolutely. I wanted to show the progression of science born of "witch's remedies" and the study of anatomy. Every science starts somewhere. It is hard to delineate where superstition and folk remedies end and science begins.

Q: The Coded Book of Wonder that Don Julius is obsessed with is based on the Voynich manuscript, a real secret coded document. How did it feel to see it in person? Were you enraptured, too?

LL: "Enraptured" is le mot juste! Through a personal contact and permission from the president of Yale, I had the opportunity to hold it in my hands. I had studied the manuscript so thoroughly on the library's website, I knew exactly which pages I wanted to inspect. It was simply one of the highlights of my life to hold this ancient manuscript.


From Booklist

This dark and tragic fairy tale is loosely based on the life of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II’s irretrievably mad, bastard son, Don Julius. Set in Prague and outer Bohemia in the early seventeenth century, the book’s backdrop is at once dazzling and gloomy. An embarrassment and a liability to his sophisticated father, Don Julius is exiled to a remote village, where he becomes obsessed with Marketa Pichler, an educated and ambitious bath maiden and the daughter of the local barber and bloodletter. As the tension between science and superstition mounts, the fine line between reason and insanity is irrevocably breached, resoundingly and inevitably resulting in murder. Lafferty has composed a passionate Bohemian rhapsody, replete with enough mysticism, madness, and mayhem to keep the pages turning. A must-read for those who prefer historical fiction on the sinister side. --Margaret Flanagan

Product Details

  • File Size: 1941 KB
  • Print Length: 513 pages
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (September 4, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007R6WCJC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,885 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
303 of 311 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Obsession and madness make this an interesting read September 1, 2012
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Bloodletter's Daughter is a highly engaging read about a period of time that I was not that familiar with. Marketa works with her father helping him as he performs leechings and purges of bad humors through bloodletting. She also helps her mother in the bathhouse, a public bathing house were women often sell more than a good scrub. She loathes being a bathmaid. Her mother pushes her to surrender her virginity to patrons to help feed their family. So far, Marketa has managed to appease her mother by letting the brewer look upon her naked body, but she knows it will not last. She dreams of becoming a serious doctor, like her father. Everything changes when the king's mad son is sent to her town, and her father is asked to help heal him of his madness. What follows is a tale of obsession, madness, and heartache.

When looking at the sheer size of this novel, some people might be leery to start. While it is a long novel, the pages flew by while I read. Through every heartache and humiliation, I could not stop reading Marketa's story. I was fascinated with the time period and how society was structured. The language in this novel was easy to follow, and I never felt confused by who or what was happening. Not only historical fiction fans will be impressed with this novel. The Bloodletter's Daughter will appeal to anyone who enjoys reading a novel with a bit of a bite. If you are looking for some complex retelling of history that has level upon level of metaphors and symbolism, you won't find it here. If you want an interesting read about passion, madness and a strong woman, pick up this novel. Marketa's evolution from victim to hero is a roller coaster ride that was thoroughly enjoyable to read.
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81 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down August 29, 2012
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The time is 1599 (though most of the story unfolds beginning in 1605). The place, Prague (and Cesky Krumlov, and Vienna). This rich story about a melancholy king's young, mad son Don Julius and the common (not really) bathmaid, Marketa, who also works with her father, the bloodletter, to help him, doesn't have a dull moment.

The story is easy to follow but has depth and range - the secondary characters (Matthias, King Rudolph's brother, who is anxious to take the crown; Annabella, the red-haired witch/healer and both Marketa's and the king's doctor, Jakub's friend; Katarina, Marketa's young love-struck friend who is forbidden to see her lover; and several others) are vivid, sympathetic characters with stories and lives I cared about. I enjoyed getting a look at the superstitions, beliefs, religious wars and family expectations and pressures of the time, as well as the foods and clothes the people ate and wore.

One of the things I loved most about the book is how the author drew such a captivating, compassionate and believable portrait of Marketa and Don Julius and their situation (relationship? it's difficult to use that word here). It's so easy to despise and criticize the young prince for his violent, abusive and horrific actions. But in Marketa's presence, some bit of mad magic occurs. We see the sad, scared boy within the young man fighting and struggling against the voices, his inner demons, to win and to do the right thing. This little bit of humanity makes it reasonable for smart, ambitious and brave young Marketa, who wants to be a doctor when it's seemingly hopeless for her to achieve such a goal, to have hope, sympathy and compassion for the prince, who is very close to her in age, and handsome and charming at certain moments despite his madness.
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110 of 123 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Taking a chance on a new author and WOW! Linda Lafferty did her homework and gets an A+!
Riveting,heroic,terrifying, heartbreaking, also full of hope, compassion, fast paced and in character of the horrors of the the 15th century when women of poverty were not their own.
Main Character: Marketa a very,very young girl in 1605 pushed into working in her mothers bath house, where girls not only bathed the men but were sold by Marketa's mother for their favors. Strong willed Marketa refused her mothers orders to allow any man to touch her. Determined to excel, exteremely learned and literate especillay for a peasant girl,intelligent, and also compassionate, dreaming of being more, much more, someday. She is our victim and our heroine.Enter Don Julius,illigitimate son of a king, rabidly insane,murderer,rapist,lier,drunkard, in general an animal that there was no medicine for in those dark days. By strange events our victim and heroine, and our madman meet. This meeting seals the fates of both of these characters.Now to prevent this review from being a spoiler, I skip the real gripping and breath-holding meat of this enthralling story,leaving it for your discovery, you will thank me for it is so very memorable.
With many townspeople hoping for Marketa, and the help of a couple of dear freinds,one a man of science and medicine, the other a believer in potions and spells and herbs for many uses, Marketa is for a time protected. But when Don Julius is let go from his captivity by the King, he immediately returns to his old ways and rapes one of Marketa's dearest friends. The town people are afraid and beg Marketa to give herself to Don Julius to save their families and their town from his evil, tranny and what will surely be utter destruction.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars WELL DEVELOPED CHARACTERS
One of the main reasons I enjoy a book or movie is how well I can visualize the characters AND if any of them have a substance of character with which I can relate. Read more
Published 18 hours ago by E. S. Barnes
4.0 out of 5 stars What a History Lesson
I couldn't put the book down for more than a few minutes. Am always interested in history and learned a lot about the "Old Countries" mentioned in the book. Read more
Published 1 day ago by Marie
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting History
The story was well written and based on historical times, dates,places and figures.The culture and customs of 15th century eastern Europe were described in such a way as to make... Read more
Published 1 day ago by L. S. Chatfield
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful!
Could not be more interesting. Lafferty shows a "savoir faire" in story telling that keeps you turning the pages anxiously. Great book!
Published 1 day ago by Solange Santos-Wysham
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating
This was, as I said, a fascinating story of a mad prince and the woman who became his obsession. It is also a story of compassion because she thought she might be able to save him.
Published 1 day ago by Love2Read
2.0 out of 5 stars Terrible writing & misguided plot lines...
When I first started reading this book, I almost put it down after the first two pages because the writing was so bad. Read more
Published 2 days ago by Nicole Sweeney
4.0 out of 5 stars History of medicine
I liked the historical part , the begining of medicine, and some uderstanding of life in europe in that period.
The story is well written and interesting.
Published 2 days ago by judith alcalay
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting story, weak ending
Very interesting story and enjoyed the historical information. I just felt it didn't have a very good ending. Kept my attention till about the last 80%
Published 2 days ago by susan maceker
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read.
A story that could very easily have been so far fetched as to be unbelievable...unreadable. It held my attention first page to last page.
Published 2 days ago by no name
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally Absorbing
This book was so well written and engrossing, I couldn't put it down. It is a beautiful story that I found interesting, especially that bath maids existed as a profession. Read more
Published 2 days ago by Carolyn Kiely
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More About the Author

The daughter of a naval commander, Linda Lafferty attended fourteen different schools growing up, ultimately graduating from the University of Colorado with a master's degree and a PhD in education. Her peripatetic childhood nourished a lifelong love of travel, and she studied abroad in England, France, Mexico, and Spain. Her uncle introduced her to the sport of polo when she was just ten years old, and she enjoys playing to this day. She also competed on the Lancaster University Riding Team in England in stadium jumping, cross country, and dressage. A veteran school educator, she taught at the American School in Madrid and at Aspen High School as an English as a Second Language and Bilingual American History teacher.

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