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The Blood Countess Mass Market Paperback – July 2, 1996

3.4 out of 5 stars 75 customer reviews

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The Underground Railroad
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A folk belief that on bitter cold nights the stars come down to mate with wolves. An adolescent boy, sexually aroused by an "iron maiden" torture device. The smell of paprika and boiled chicken served with Tokay wine. These and other vivid images of Hungary in the 16th century, and Hungary today, swirl together amid scenes of luxury and barbarity and talk of Martin Luther's Christianity and post-Communist ideals in this gloriously gruesome novel inspired by the life of Countess Elizabeth Bathory. They say she killed 650 virgin girls in order to rejuvenate herself with their blood.

From Publishers Weekly

NPR commentator and filmmaker Codrescu's first novel alternates between a pathological 16th-century Hungarian countess and her present-day descendant, a journalist seeking to come to grips with contemporary Europe.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 453 pages
  • Publisher: Dell; Reprint edition (July 2, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440221919
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440221913
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 4.2 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,271,928 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
As a graduate student in the area of Medieval and Renaissance Europe, I always go into historical novels with a bit of skepticism but also hopeful optimism. Codrescu's account of 17th century Hungary and the historical character of Countess Bathory met my optimistic hopes. The brutality, suspicion and general hardship of the time was obviously well-researched, as was the totalitarian power of the noble class which provoked peasant revolts like the one described in the book. The characters were possibly not developed enough, particularly the modern-day Count Bathory-Kereshtur about whom I would have liked to know more. But the complex psychological motivations of Elizabeth Bathory were developed quite well and in a chilling and descriptive manner. The descriptions of violent acts were perhaps a bit graphic, but relevant within the historical context for the period and place in which they occur. Overall a book definitely worth reading, but not for the squeamish.
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Format: Hardcover
Codrescu is a talented and intelligent writer, one who understands that no amount of gore and violence can replace the magic of the true storyteller's art. What Elizabeth Bathory does to the young women who fall prey to her bizzare obsession is clearly secondary to why she does these things. Despite the rather lurid title, this book runs on taut psychological suspense.
Codrescu's dual plot, or tale-within-a-tale, is presented in the frame of a courtroom confession. What propelled this reader through the book was not a tawdry "whodunit" conundrum, but a desire to see when and why the two plotlines would converge. Codrescu evokes character and place so skillfully that the reader experiences the same double vision as the characters themselves.
The only real disappointment comes at the very end. After so much build up, so much allusion, Codrescu's denouement feels somewhat hurried, with a few threads left hanging, a few characters not quite fully utilized.
Nonetheless "The Blood Countess" is a powerful, beautifully written novel steeped in real history and the darkness of the human heart
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Andre Codrescu's "The Blood Countess: A Novel" first is a description of Elizabeth Bathory, the 16th Century Hungarian countess who ruled a kingdom in her warrior husband's absence. Elizabeth was an able administrator, but she is known instead for her brutal and mechanical fascination with depravity and torture. Elizabeth's obsession with youth caused her to torture and murder 650 indentured maidservants at her castle, often bathing in their blood to restore her own youthfulness.
"The Blood Countess ..." also is the fictional interwoven story of Drake Bathory-Kereshtur, a journalist and direct descendent of Elizabeth who fled to the United States during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. During his return visit to Hungary after the fall of Communism, Drake becomes involved in a coup attempt to reinstate the hereditary Hungarian monarchy, and with his acquaintances Drake becomes entangled in Elizabeth Bathory's depraved heritage.
Andre Codrescu's descriptions of depravity are troubling despite the current popularity of macabre entertainment (of which "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" is the tip of the iceberg). Yet Andre Codrescu is a craftsman and a wordsmith, and his own experiences with (gothic) Romanian culture are reflected throughout this fictional novel. Codrescu's descriptions of depravity create an atmosphere of hopelessness that reminds me of "The Gulag Archipelago" by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn. IMO this wonderful portrayal of hopelessness elevates "The Blood Countess: A Novel" from a good read to a brutal work of art.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This reminds me something of an uncensored Grimm's Fairy Tales, though far more graphic in nature (and without all the bothersome morality). No disgusting, bloody, pornographic detail was spared. More historical facts would have been nice, but let's face it: if Elizabeth Bathory wasn't such a disturbed and sadistic killer, no one would have ever bothered to research her life at all.

The supporting characters (From Countess Bathory's time, at least) are truly fascnating and seem well researched. Her uncle, George Thurzo for instance, the magistrate who invented or improved upon several torture devices, can only be of the line of Thurzos at Emperor Sigmund's court during the mid-1400's. Her mentor, the Friar Silvestri, is equally interesting, though many of his exploits are obviously exagerated from hearsay.

One wonders, though, why the subplot about the 'last of the Bathory line' is needed at all. The reader never finds out how Elizabeth lives beyond the grave or exactly what she wants with the character. It is, so far as I can tell, one big metaphor that never leads anywhere. I found myself skimming through every other chapter just to get to the parts about the real Bathorys.

Nonetheless, while reading the book it is easy for the reader to discern what is fact, what is fiction, and what the author simply takes some artistic licnse with. I must admit that what I expected was more of a historical novel, but I have no regrets about reading it.
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