Published by Crown on October 12th 2010
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.
I definitely remember this book! Bloody Countess just happens to be one of my favorite stories from history and it is quite fun to try to decipher the fact from fiction. It’s difficult with this one because she is told to have been a bit crazy about her looks and even crazier about punishing people. This book was one of the best books I’ve read on the subject and I highly recommend it! My previous rating was a 3.5 but this one has stuck with me. I’m upping the rating to a solid 4.
What was most alluring about the Countess was the fact that it was in first person. You get a first hand look through the life of the eyes of someone that kills but doesn’t feel any remorse for it. This was not a blood bath or a vampire story but rather the look behind a beautiful, intelligent woman of the 1600’s. Your heart pounds with hers as she moves from her life to the house of her betrothed, wanting nothing more than to please him and his mother but sadly she finds a different state than what is at her own house under her mother’s keep. From the beginning of the book you can tell that she is upset by many of the servants, sometimes so much so that before she is even the Lady of the house she wants to punish them.
You watch as she grows into womanhood and her intelligence holds no bounds. She lives through many horrors as a woman and is left feeling stronger but also a bitter seed is growing inside her and you can see that it is festering in her. The multiple times she catches a lover cheating, or an unwed woman pregnant, she has a conniption. Rightly so? Maybe but because of many of these experiences she grows harder and less capable of holding her tongue and more importantly, her temper.
Even as a child she could match wits with the best of them, even the King and will do absolutely anything for her children but she soon realizes after her husband’s death that nothing can save her. She has tried to live a life that shows that she is strong and can live without a man but through it all she knows she needs a man at her side to be able to keep the predators at bay.
Most of the story is very political, drawing conspiracy theories that truly start you wondering how much Erzsebeth did to have such a horrid reputation but then there are snippets throughout that show that maybe she is not in the full use of her abilities. She many times lets her anger get the best of her and has taught her upper servants to punish accordingly. But sadly she does not reign them in as servant girl after servant girl goes missing again and again. And as she has no man to protect her but lots of land, she finds herself alone and without a friend that will speak a kindly word for her. Those that were friendly toward her prior to her husband’s death all have their hand in the pot, each wants a piece of what the new widow owns. And because of this and because of Erzsebeth’s lack of humility when killing a lowly servant, she is driven out of her own lands.
The story was fantastic but I was left wanting more. I don’t want to spoil the ending, and I do believe it is worth reading but it just ending on a questionable note for me. It didn’t take any time to read, the story flows beautifully and the plot is well spelled out but again I am not fully satisfied. I feel that this was the appetizer to all that there is to know about Erzsebeth Bathory and the good side of this is that I will read more. So, for me this gets a 3.5/5.