Book Review: The Shadow Land – Elizabeth Kostova ***

Apologies that there has only been one book review this week but The Shadow Land is a real beast of a book. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Elizabeth Kostova’s books. She writes the most incredible stories but I feel like I have lived this journey back and forth across Bulgaria and have the aches and pain to prove it! Kostova writes very descriptive prose and sometimes it just feels like there is just too much detail, too much of everything…

Alexandra has just arrived in Bulgaria for a work placement to teach English. She has been working hard to learn the Cyrillic alphabet of her hosts but when her plane lands and she finds herself in Sofia she discovers that it is a very foreign land. An encounter with some locals leads to a bag mix up and Alexandra finds herself in possession of an ornately carved urn full of cremated ashes.

Unsure what to do she gets a local taxi driver to take her to the police station so that she can report the events and leave them the ashes so that they can find the owner. An unsatisfactory conversation with the Chief of the Police sees Alexandra leaving the station still clutching Stoyan Lazarov’s remains and vowing to find the family herself.

With help from “Bobby” her taxi driver Alexandra begins the journey that will take them all over the county learning about the Lazarov family and the talented musician who started this quest. It is often an uncomfortable tale with a considerable portion of the book devoted to what had happened to Stoyan in internment camps during and after world war two. I knew very little about this part of the world and it had never really featured in history lessons etc. so I found myself googling events to see what had really happened in Bulgaria during this period.

It feels a bit mean giving the book just three stars but it balances out with four stars for the story but two stars for the meandering and laboured process of getting there. At times I just wanted to shout. “Stop the car. I’ve had enough” but I’m glad that I did persevere in the end.

Supplied by Net Galley and Text Publishing UK in exchange for an honest review.

UK Publication Date: Apr 18 2017. 500 pages.

The Shadow Land

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