The Countess – Rebecca Johns

The Countess: A Novel

“The Countess” opens in Hungary in 1611 with Countess Erzsebet Bathory being walled up in a castle prison to spend the remainder of her life in solitary confinement.  What crimes did she commit to warrant such a brutal punishment?   She and a number of her employees were accused of the murder of hundreds of local young girls who had incurred the wrath of their mistress, later known as the Blood Countess.  Erzsebet has been the subject of numerous myths and legends which portray her as the most prolific female serial killer, on a par with Vlad the Impaler, but she never stood trial and the truth remains a mystery.

I hadn’t heard of Erzsebet before reading this novelisation of her life but I found this version very readable and engaging.  The author refrains from sensationalism with little reference to the blood and gore attributed to the Countess but I felt the story had more substance as a result.  Erzsebet is portrayed as an ambitious, intelligent woman, married off at a very young age to a man who is more concerned with battles than the bedroom.  Left to her own devices, she becomes an astute businesswoman, successfully managing her husband’s estates during his lengthy absences. 

Rebecca Johns succeeds in painting a very vivid, human picture of a flawed woman whose all-consuming ambition is her downfall.  We will never know the whole truth about her crimes but The Countess is an absorbing account of a woman who strove for independence yet made the mistake of thinking herself invincible at a time when women were supposed to be meek and mild.

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  1. I so want to read this one. I saw a documentary once with Bathory in and she just sounds so fascinating.

  2. admin says:

    She is an intriguing character, Sam and I liked the way she narrates the story yet feels no compunction for what she did. It does seem as those who incarcerated her were politically motivated though.

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