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The Bloodletter's Daughter (A Novel of Old Bohemia) Paperback – Unabridged, September 4, 2012
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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.
- ASIN : 1612184650
- Publisher : Lake Union Publishing; Unabridged edition (September 4, 2012)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 512 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9781612184654
- ISBN-13 : 978-1612184654
- Item Weight : 1.25 pounds
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 1 x 8.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,038,535 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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In any case, when I returned home, I immediately bought the book. This is that book. Now I understand the tour guide's reaction, when I asked if she had liked the book. It became apparent almost immediately, upon reading, what the problem was. It is the writing. It is just not up to snuff, riddled with incomplete and grammatically incorrect, repetitive sentences. Do not, however, take just my word for it. Allow me to give you a brief sample taken right from the pages of this book in chapter one:
"But she would brush her wavy hair out of her
storm-colored eyes and stare back at the offender,
raising her chin. The gesture exposed her heart-shaped
face and the ruddy color of her cheeks, which would
flame with color if her passion was stirred."
Right away, this gave me pause. Quite frankly, I did not think I could finish reading this book, due to the quality of the writing, which was badly in need of a good editor. This book is published by Amazon Publishing, which means that it is, essentially, a self-published work. Had I realized this at the time of purchase, I probably would not have completed the transaction. Still, I persevered and finished reading it.
On the plus side, the author did her research. The core of the story is true, and it is a work of historical fiction, one of my favorite genres. If one can get past the writing issue, the story itself is interesting. Moreover, having been in Cesky Krumlov recently, the imagery was vivid in my mind eye.
Still, I cannot say I liked this book. I am actually amazed by the number of good reviews that it is received. All I can say is that if you enjoy a well-written book, this would not be it. The quality of the writing is simply too distracting. Therefore, the book fails in its execution. So, I cannot recommend it. Different strokes for different folks.
This book is centered around the true story of the brutal murder of Czech bathmaid Marketa Pichlerova by King Rudolf II's bastard son, Don Julius in 1608. Marketa works in her mother's bath house and her mother is basically trying to pimp her out to the highest bidder. Her father is the village barber and bloodletter. Marketa also assists her father in his treatments and her dream is to be a doctor--an impossibility in the 1600s. Meanwhile in Prague, Don Julius has become unmanageable. He drinks, rapes, and brutalizes man and beast. His father, under pressure, sends his son to be exiled and bled at Rozmberk Castle in the village of Cesky Krumlov. Marketa and her father attend the prince and he falls in love with her. Marketa is falling for Dr. Jakub Horcicky, one of the King's physicians and botanists. He is falling for her and also respects her desire to be a physician. Marketa feels sympathy for Don Julius and thinks she can cure him. He becomes psychotically obsessed with her and she makes a tragic error in judgement. Horrible things happen but the town rallies to protect her. A secondary story is about King Rudolf's brother Matthias and his desire to take advantage of his brother's weakness to overthrow him and gain land and power. This would be a great movie!
I really liked this story. It is fast paced and interesting and there are plenty edge of your seat moments. I appreciated the strong female characters, not just Marketa but her friend Annabella the witch and her aunt Mother Superior Ludmilla. Ms. Lafferty did a masterful job of representing Bohemia in the time period. There is the struggle between science and religion, as well as the fight between Catholics and Protestants to be the only religion. There is the struggle between medicine and witchcraft. She also adds in some wonderful Czech folklore. I would rate this five stars for story alone. I deducted a star because the writing is average. At times the descriptive sections were over the top for me. It was like the author was trying too hard to use adjectives. On occasion I thought I was reading a bodice-ripping romance novel and this briefly spoiled my reading experience. If you enjoy historical fiction and are looking for a gripping story that is not great literature, this book is a fine pick.
Top reviews from other countries
I liked the way the author not only looked at ancient medical practices, but also showed how women were very much subservient to men in most areas of life and how witches were seen in many places as a threat to the male order of things. Interesting too how women and mothers were in some cases colluding with that order.
It gives one many things to think about.
A worthwhile read if you enjoy a Historical novel.
One historical discrepancy regarding medical advancement in Britain. Elizabeth the first died in 1603. before the story starts.
it was James the 6th of Scotland who succeeded her, when offered the English throne, to become James the Sixth and First of The
United Kingdom. He introduced the medical advancements referred to in the book.