The Countess: A Novel of Elizabeth Bathory

The Countess: A Novel of Elizabeth Bathory

3.9 53
by Rebecca Johns
     
 

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Was the “Blood Countess” history’s first and perhaps worst female serial killer? Or did her accusers create a violent fiction in order to remove this beautiful, intelligent, ambitious foe from the male-dominated world of Hungarian politics?
 
In 1611, Countess Erzsébet Báthory, a powerful Hungarian noblewoman,

Overview

Was the “Blood Countess” history’s first and perhaps worst female serial killer? Or did her accusers create a violent fiction in order to remove this beautiful, intelligent, ambitious foe from the male-dominated world of Hungarian politics?
 
In 1611, Countess Erzsébet Báthory, a powerful Hungarian noblewoman, stood helpless as masons walled her inside her castle tower, dooming her to spend her final years in solitary confinement. Her crime—the gruesome murders of dozens of female servants, mostly young girls tortured to death for displeasing their ruthless mistress. Her opponents painted her as a bloodthirsty škrata—a witch—a portrayal that would expand to grotesque proportions through the centuries.

In this riveting dramatization of Erzsébet Báthory’s life, the countess tells her story in her own words, writing to her only son—a final reckoning from his mother in an attempt to reveal the truth behind her downfall. Countess Báthory describes her upbringing in one of the most powerful noble houses in Hungary, recounting in loving detail her devotion to her parents and siblings as well as the heartbreak of losing her father at a young age. She soon discovers the price of being a woman in sixteenth-century Hungary as her mother arranges her marriage to Ferenc Nádasdy, a union made with the cold calculation of a financial transaction. Young Erzsébet knows she has no choice but to accept this marriage even as she laments its loveless nature and ultimately turns to the illicit affections of another man.

Seemingly resigned to a marriage of convenience and a life of surreptitious pleasure, the countess surprises even herself as she ignites a marital spark with Ferenc through the most unromantic of acts: the violent punishment of an insolent female servant. The event shows Ferenc that his wife is no trophy but a strong, determined woman more than capable of managing their vast estates during Ferenc’s extensive military campaigns against the Turks. Her naked assertion of power accomplishes what her famed beauty could not: capturing the love of her husband.

The countess embraces this new role of loving wife and mother, doing everything she can to expand her husband’s power and secure her family’s future. But a darker side surfaces as Countess Báthory’s demand for virtue, obedience, and, above all, respect from her servants takes a sinister turn. What emerges is not only a disturbing, unflinching portrait of the deeds that gave Báthory the moniker “Blood Countess,” but an intimate look at the woman who became a monster.

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307588463
Publisher:
Crown/Archetype
Publication date:
09/27/2011
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
361,778
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

REBECCA JOHNS is an assistant professor of English at DePaul University and a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her first novel, Icebergs, was a finalist for the 2007 PEN/Hemingway Award.

From the Hardcover edition.

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The Countess 3.9 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 53 reviews.
LottieTripe More than 1 year ago
though set in the 16th century, you don't have to be fan of the period piece to enjoy this one. however, a strong constitution for depravity is required. though not nearly as gory as some of the reviews claim it to be, this is still no read for the timid. to witness a woman engulfed in greed and paranoia, slowly and maniacally destroy herself, is heartbreaking. to BE that woman for 302 pages is just plain frightening. i wasn't expecting to be fond of a woman labeled "the most prolific serial killer in history", but i did go in with an open mind. definitely not an account portraying her innocence, Johns still writes a narrative that invites you to judge Bathory. i myself, being raised by a strict russian grandmother, found myself defending her for more than 3/4 of the book! but those last chapters will convince you that perspective is everything. read it. you'll see what i mean.
TheWhiteNinja More than 1 year ago
I passed over this book a few times because I judged a book by it's cover. I was expecting it to be a vampire in the current trend. Not at all! It tells the sumptuous yet gruesome tale of the Countess Bathory, a women who legends tell bathed in the blood of young maids to retain her youth and is consider to be the most prolific female serial killer of all time. Is she a victim of a political smear campaign or is there something truly horrifying behind the beautiful face? The pace is perfect, the characters come alive and you'll be left wanting more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I picked this up after reading several favorable reviews. Rebecca Johns' illustrative style allows the reader to step back in time to the noble houses of 16th century Hungary. The thing I found most evocative was the theme of loss that runs throughout the book. The real loss of children and loved ones to illness, and the perceived losses of Erzs¿bet, but more than anything the unspoken loss of the families who had sent their girls to the N¿dasdy household. Thinking back to a time when a child might leave home and simply vanish with days and weeks between letters sliding into months and years easily with no communication. Overall, this was definitely an interesting insight into a woman we may all have heard of but may know little about. I found this an easy read and finished it in three nights (even though I found myself often referring back to some of the pronunciation guide and looking up some of the described locales).
Vonfornow More than 1 year ago
I just loved this book. The fact that it was written in Erzsebet Bathory's perspective was what drew me to it in the first place. The events, locations and people just sprang to life because of Rebecca's wonderfully descriptive writing. More dark and eerie, it was at times light and airy, keeping me guessing what was to come.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A vivid and chilling portrait of the notorious Erzebet Bathory. Not a witch or some other fearsome creature but a woman devoid of remorse who believed her lineage and title gave her the right to do as she wished regardless of the consequences.
Mildred More than 1 year ago
Yes, it is set in the 16th Century, written from Erzebet's point of view, not historically correct from the little info we have from her life (e.g. her mother-in-law dies in the book before Erzebet gets married). There is no gore, no darkness in this novel. Nicely written though, kind of sad, melancholic, nostalgic towards the end. E-book version has no mispelled words or missing/mixed paragraphs :)
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Beautifully written. Offers a brillant insight to a possible villian of history
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