The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I was curious about this novel after reading both The Historian and The Swan Thieves by this author. I have grown accustomed to complex novels that still move quickly, usually discussing art or literature in some way. I was disappointed by The Shadow Land.
It is very clear that the author has fallen in love with Bulgaria (and a Bulgarian!) and wanted to write a novel that expressed it. So she created this novel as a framework. The first half of the novel contains a lot of movement from place to place, I imagine because she wanted to write about some of these places with such rich history, but some of these places have no bearing on the outcome of the story. The characters are too obviously pawns and the events are too implausible. Some opportunities were missed - the main character is there to teach English yet everyone she meets speaks good enough English, even the elderly. I'm pretty sure the timeline of her adventure overlaps with when she was expected in the classroom but this is not addressed. Her taxi driver has indicators of revolutionary activity (at least resistance) but this is pretty much dropped midway through the story (and was possibly the most interesting story line to me.) One story that seems to tie everything together is told unevenly, and contains the elements of most confusion.
Despite my complaints I did learn some things about Bulgaria in World War II, and the ancient people called the Thracians. I can see why the author is in love with this place. But I think the story she chose to tell inside of it was not a success.
Thanks to the publisher for granting access through NetGalley.
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