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A young woman, Alexandra, still grieving a brother’s death, arrives in Sofia, Bulgaria, a country both she and her brother wanted to visit. Leaving a hotel just after arriving, she inadvertently ends up with a tote bag belonging to a family she helped get to their taxi. The rest of the story involves her efforts—along with a resourceful taxi driver—to return the bag’s contents. The book has epic proportions and a thriller sensibility.
Well done literary thriller if a little long and stretched belief at some points. Maybe a bit ambitious, maybe read too soon after reading much better ‘The Prague Sonata.’ Others may like more.
I just couldn't get into this book. There was such an implausible connection between the main two characters and their unending journey into the depths of Bulgaria. I had high expectations for the book, but couldn't finish it. Too long, to convoluted and not believable enough for me.
I was excited to get a copy of this book, knowing how good The Historian was, but I found it a disappointing followup. I couldn't engage with the characters. In fact, they seemed somewhat shallow. The book dragged and I found myself having to press on in hopes it would get better. The premise was good. I won't go into it very far in order to avoid a spoiler, but it's about an American young woman who goes to Bulgaria to teach. Through a taxi mix up, she discovers she is in possession of someone's urn with ashes. The book takes her on a journey to get it back to the rightful owners. Maybe I was expecting too much from the book, and though I read it completely, it left me unsatisfied and now I want to re read The Historian to experience her talent as a writer. I hope her next book will be more engaging.
I was lucky enough to see Elizabeth Kostova when she was in Christchurch promoting this book. Her stories of her own time in Bulgaria were fascinating - In her student days she visited the country while researching Bulgarian folk music - and while she was there, the Berlin Wall came down. It was a fascinating time in history then - and her book draws on even more Bulgarian history, from the 1940s onwards. It's dark, yes, but important.
It's a historical mystery, a thriller, and a beautiful piece of literary fiction all in one
I found both story lines compelling and full of rich historical detail. While sometimes tragic and heartbreaking, Lazarov's story gripped me, and I finished the book wishing his past had been brought in earlier in the novel.
The descriptions in this book are gorgeous; I could just see the scenery she painted with her words! I got a little tired of the premise that both the protagonist and her taxi driver could just take off driving with no changes of clothes, etc. from one small village to another for days on end in an attempt to return the cremated remains. That strained my credulity. However, the characters were well-drawn and I was rooting for all of them, except Momo. Lovely writing!
4.5 stars. I have been waiting for a new Elizabeth Kostova novel for a while now and she did not disappoint. The complex characters, the evocative writing, the tense and twisty plot, the beautiful and haunting setting...all of these ingredients added up to a book that I could not wait to pick up at the end of a long day. I loved this one!
Balkan history intrigues me. Ottoman rule. Soviet control. What a fascinating land of shadows. As a modern history of Bulgaria, this riveting story is both informative and intriguing. My only problem with the story is the tangential feel of Alexa's backstory. I left wanting to know more about her future and less about her past.
I've previously loved Kostova's fiction, but I had a hard time with this one! There was a dynamic between the two main characters that bugged me a bit - she's always looking to him to solve the problem. He has the car and the smarts; she has... I dunno, a firm moral compass and some demons to exorcise from her past? Sigh. At one point, she literally faints. I could. Not. Deal.
Still, the setting is lovely, and for readers unfamiliar with communism in Eastern Europe, the book is a lyrical introduction that pulls no punches. Indeed, I kind of wished the book skipped the entire modern-day plot and just told the story of the Lazarovi. But, overall, if you loved The Historian, you'll probably find this to be an enjoyable enough read to pass the time.
I enjoyed the history and location in this book but I feel like I didn't relate to the characters as much as I wanted to. I kept reading because I wanted to know more about the history but I found the present day story was stiff.
Alexandra Boyd arrives in Bulgaria to teach and while helping an elderly couple into a taxi, she later realizes she has one of their bags. Determined to return the bag to its rightful owner she sets out on a journey of unexpected mystery, danger, history, and healing.
orothy's quest to meet The Wizard. As I am writing this, (all proud of my cleverness)I realize there is a character named The Wizard. (Duh) But he actually isn't the THE Wizard.
Our Dorothy, Alexandra, is a young woman newly arrived in Sofia, Bulgaria to teach. Alexandra is also on a pilgrimage of sorts for her brother who died young in a hiking accident. Alexandra is almost destroyed by her burden of guilt. So when by trying to do a good deed for a small little family group, she ends up with cremains, Alexandra is horrified. Unh uh, no way is she going to bear this guilt.
Alexandra meets up with her Scarecrow, a taxi driver named Bobby, who joins her on this quest to find three people in Bulgaria when she doesn't know their name, phone, or address. Although she soon catches a break on the name.
Bobby is the ultimate Scarecrow with skills and secrets of his own. Everyone should be so lucky as to have a Bobby in their life.
Alexandra and Bobby's journey on the YBR is a physical and historical journey through Bulgaria. A journey of light and darkness. Early on they discover the name of the man whose remains they hold, Stoyan Lazarov, a violinist of exceptional skill. It is his story we begin to learn. The story of his incredible skill as a violinist, his abiding love for his Vera, and his long dark journey into the hell of the Bulgarian gulags.
Alexandra and Bobby find themselves in danger almost from the beginning. It takes a long while to discover by whom and even longer to discover why. As Alexandra and Bobby begin to meet Stoyan's family and friends, they discover his journeys into hell are almost balanced by the beauty of these F and Fs. Kostova paints her characters as lovingly a Sargent or a Casset.
There is a distraction at first when some of the chapters are told by Alexandra's POV, This distraction soon disappears. This about the only discordant note I can think of.
I don't think I have to words to describe Kostova's description of Stoyan's music. Her descriptions, are, well, music. But all of Kostova's descriptions are lovely. Sometimes I just skim wordy descriptions, in Kostova's case I savor her words.
For all the right reasons, this book takes commitment. It is a journey well worth taking.