Alexandra was not only very tired, but also young, in both years and experience… In other words, nothing in her previous experience had prepared her for the feeling of being suddenly locked in a monastic room with a stranger five thousand miles from the Blue Ridge Mountains, holding an urn containing the ashes of another stranger. (page 61)
Elizabeth Kostova’s The Shadow Land follows a young American woman, Alexandra Boyd, as she travels to Bulgaria in memory of her lost brother. On her first day there, she accidentally takes the bag of an elderly couple, finding in it the boxed ashes of Stoyan Lazarov, talented musician and beloved father, friend, and husband. Setting out to return the box, alongside a taxi driver with a mysterious past, Alexandra becomes entangled in a far larger conspiracy that encapsulates Bulgaria’s past and will determine its future.
It is also a novel that deals sensitively with loss and tragedy. Alexandra struggles to cope with the loss of her brother ten years before and many of the Bulgarian characters struggle with the legacy of the brutal Communist regime in their nation.
Two confessions: I know nothing about Elizabeth Kostova and even less about Bulgaria. I vaguely remember attempting to read The Historian, but giving up early on. As for Bulgaria, my partner was briefly obsessed with moving there for a while so I know that the housing market is fairly cheap. After reading this one I’ll definitely be on the hunt for more Kostova and more Bulgaria.
I was quickly sucked into the narrative and the 500 pages seemed to fly by. Taking readers across Bulgaria and the twentieth century, The Shadow Land would appeal to lovers of literary fiction, historical fiction, and mystery and adventure novels.