Friday, June 3, 2011

The Countess by Rebecca Johns

Countess Erzsébet Báthory is locked in her castle, awaiting the end of her life. With no one to comfort her, she writes to her son Pál to seek out his comfort and explain her horrible situation. Erzsébet begins with one of her earliest memories. Her father is hosting a feast for the birth of her little sister. A gypsy man is accused of selling his daughter to the Turks. To punish the man, Erzsébet's father orders the man to be sewn into the belly of a dead horse with only his head showing. While the man is dying, Erzsébet sneaks down to confront and taunt the man, telling him "You suffer too little." Also at this feast, Erzsébet meets the mother of Ferenc Nádasdy. The Nádasdy and Báthory families agree to betroth the children to each other. Soon Erzsébet is leaving for the Nádasdy home to be further trained in the wifely arts. After a year and a half Erzsébet meets Ferenc and neither are impressed. Ferenc cares more for his military pursuits, and Erzsébet finds solace in the arms of a cousin. She soon is pregnant, and gives birth to a daughter in secret. Erzsébet and Ferenc continue their unhappy marriage until one day Ferenc finds Erzsébet beating a servant girl who has caught Ferenc's eye. The girl is badly beaten and Ferenc demonstrates a new form of torture to Erzsébet. After this, the sparks begin to fly in the marriage, despite Ferenc's frequent long term absences. Erzsébet is charged with maintaining the estates during these long absences, and finds that she is quite a shrewd manager. This sparks jealousy among the other nobles and causes the King to ask Ferenc for a loan to continue the war against the Turks. Erzsébet agrees to the loan, and on goes life. Erzsébet and Ferenc have more children and life continues.After being on the battlefield, Ferenc comes home ill and dies. Erzsébet struggles to maintain her dignity in public, but she soon begins to crack on the inside. To keep the wolves of the world at bay, she goes to her husband's friend and confidante, György Thurzó. Erzsébet and Thurzó soon begin to have an intimate relationship, both physically and mentally.  Though Thurzó is not the handsome man that Ferenc was, Erzsébet is content with the man she loves. Thurzó is soon called into the King's service, but promises to join Erzsébet at his soonest opportunity. But time passes and  Thurzó does not come. At the wedding of her daughter Erzsébet learns why. Thurzó is engaged to a young girl he met while in the King's service. Erzsébet is furious and takes her rage out on her servants. This leads to Erzsébet's downfall at the hands of someone close to her.

I have long been interested in the story of  Countess Erzsébet Báthory. There are so many variation in her life story from the happiness of her marriage, the birth of a secret child and the heinousness of her crimes. Rebecca Johns portrays Countess Erzsébet Báthory as a confident woman, who is a shrewd businesswoman with a heart of steel. Countess Erzsébet Báthory is remembered in history as a vampiric woman, whose cruelty knew no bounds. Rebecca portrays her in a kinder light, as a loving wife and mother who had little tolerance for her servants missteps. While you might not feel sorry for Erzsébet, one can understand her a little better through this novel. This novel never reveals the number of servants that were tortured or murdered, it glosses it over, much like Erzsébet would have in her life. Erzsébet also never bathes in blood or engages in any vampiric deeds. She simply is just a strict  and unjust disciplinarian.I feel that this novel fully gives Erzsébet a chance to tell her story in her words to her son and the world. While the woman may have been a monster, this book will gives you a chance to see her world for what she saw it as.


  1. I want to read this. I've been interested in Countess Erzsébet Báthory since I seen a TV special on crazy royals. She's just one of those historical people that you can't but be curious in. I would love to understand more about her life to figure out what snapped. Personally, I believe it was genetics and her aunt.

  2. I read another book on her The Dandelions in the Garden. I got the kindle version off amazon for $2.99 and read it on my computer. It was good, but made her seem more reckless and dangerous. With a really bad temper. This book made her seem normal. Or normal for the servant girls are dying.

    They were both good.