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Dracula Was a Woman: In Search of the Blood Countess of Transylvania Hardcover – June, 1987
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Top Customer Reviews
Ursula Kanizsay, Elizabeth's mother-in-law-to-be, DIED in 1571, when Elizabeth was eleven. There is no evidence that she even met Elizabeth face to face, much less arranged her promiscuous daughter-in-law's child's adoption. At least McNally doesn't claim to know the name of the child (Anastasia!?!) as some biographers have done. Where are the letters which show Elizabeth's hatred for Ursula? Why did the real Elizabeth name one of her daughters after her?
Other discrepancies with history include Elizabeth's Aunt Klara, "the notorious bisexual 'AND' lesbian" flagellist who supposedly indoctrinated her niece, Elizabeth. There WAS a Klara Bathory, younger sister of Elizabeth's father, George, who was born in 1523(or 1521, the same biographer places Elizabeth's wedding as May 8,1573 instead of the usual 1575) [and would have to have been in her fifties while she was supposedly engaging in sexual activities with her teenage niece] of which virtually nothing is known. McNally repeats hearsay with no footnotes, just a bibliography in the back. Other mistakes are minor, but irritating. Elizabeth was fourteen at the time of her marriage on May 8, 1575 (she was born August 7, 1560) not fifteen. Her husband (born Oct. 6, 1555) was nineteen, not twenty-one as McNally asserts. Elizabeth's would-be father-in-law (Thomas Nadasdy, died 1562) was born in 1498, not 1493. I know people are thinking, "what's the difference?". Well, I can't help it. I'm a stickler for ages and dates.
Most damaging of all is McNally's response to the trial witness, "Zusannah",who recalls hearing about a diary with 650 victims' names belonging to the countess. Rather than asking how this other person was able to count all 650 (or 610 or 612, accounts vary) names (were they numbered one to 650, did they approximate by the number of pages and number of names per page, or what?) McNally assumes this is proof-positive that the Countess was killing people for most of her life, and that the servants who claimed deaths in the 36-50 range were only aware of murders committed in the last few years of Elizabeth's life.
I am not an Elizabeth Bathory defender or apologist. If she was indeed "the tigress in human form, the hyena of Csejthe" then she is deserving of our scorn and our contempt. But, if the legends are exaggerations or flat out lies, then as historians we should ferret out the truth.
I'll repeat that because it sounds vaguely important: out of a 250 page book, only part of the first 92 pages have to do with the subject matter. There is more info on the political upheavals going on at the time, and much of it has seemingly nothing to do with Elizabeth. It's sort of a "meanwhile, in another part of the country..." type of digression. The focus is largely on what was going on "around her" instead of what was going on "with" her. As if McNally is saying "look at me, I'm a professor of eastern European history and you're not!"
After page 92, it gets a little ridiculous. Notice how each chapter afterward begins with a sentence which includes Elizabeth's name in it (just to remind you who the book is supposed to be about and poorly attempt to tie her in to the subject matter), then goes way off course and discusses Werewolves, Necrophilia, and then vampire movies. Apparently she fits into these somehow, but I think it is all in McNally's mind. He just needed to fluff up the book by a couple hundred pages with pointless sensationalism, since the actual part about Elizabeth had none and made her seem rather boring, believe it or not. He actually begins to champion her by book's end, as if he were her hero who will clear her name of these acts.
By the end of the tale, I still did not understand why she did it. There is no explanation or barely even a speculation. It's presented in a "yeah, she just kinda got into it for no apparent reason" fashion. McNally even alludes to the possibility of it all being a conspiracy against the Countess by other aristocrats who wanted to have their debts to her cancelled by having her imprisoned.
McNally says Elizabeth *probably didn't* bathe in blood since no official records tell of that, and that much of the killing was done by her servants. And there is nothing more than a glancing touch on her sexuality, which is a subject that could have helped paint a better picture of her as a person. Of course, with such little documentation available, some topics are going to suffer if there is a lack of speculation on the author's part.
Ultimately I was left thinking, this is it? that's all? Not that what she was accused of wasn't bad, but, if this is closer to the truth, it doesn't come near the drama of the legends. A bit of a let down for those fascinated by the myth.
If the legends were true it would have made for a more interesting psychological evaluation of the Countess, and subsequently a more interesting book.
Sorry to burst any bubbles out there, but I personally was a little perturbed about spending a pretty penny on a book that is less than halfway full of what I bought it for.