Monday, January 20, 2014

The Bloodletter's Daughter (A Novel of Old Bohemia)

The Bloodletter's Daughter by Linda Lafferty

Hungary was at war with the Ottoman Empire beginning in 1526.  During the time that the Catholics were fighting the scurge of Islam, they had dissent within their own ranks, the rise of Protestantism.  in 1606 Archduke Matthias (Matthias II) managed to negotiate the Treaty of Vienna which allowed for religious freedom and united the people of Christianity against the Ottoman Empire.

In 1608, a bathmaid, Marketa Pichlerova, was butchered by the bastard son of Rudolf II.  His son, Don Julius was reportedly insane.  After this event, Rudolf II fell into a deep melancholy and dismissed his advisers and ministers, leaving his valet, Philip Lang, in charge of state affairs.  In June 1608, Matthias and his allies marched toward Prague and forced his brother Rudolf II to yield the kingdoms of Moravia, Hungary and Austria.  Rudolf II lived out his life in seclusion surrounded by his personal servants until his death in 1612.

A year after the death of Don Julius, a two-tome book Malleus Maleficarom, explaining sorcery and witchcraft was found in his possessions in Rozmberk Castle where he died.  A supposition was made that the book was purchased because he believed, like his father, that he was bewitched and he was perhaps taking steps to locate the witch.

The subsequent Thirty Years War, involving most of Europe in the struggle between Catholics and Protestants, devastated Bohemia.  Doctor Jakub Horcicky de Tenepec, a Catholic prisoner was exchanged for a Protestant prisoner, Doctor Jan Jesenius.  In 1621 Jan Jesenius was shot along with twenty-six other Protestants in Prague's Old Town Square.

Doctor Horcicky wrote a pamphlet entitled "Catholic Confession, or Description of the Right common Chrisitian Confession, about Hope Credence and Love."  He was quite successful professionally creating a medicine from the distillation of plants called "aqua sinapii" (water of mustards) that proved quite profitable.  He held the title of imperial chemist both under Rudolf II and Emperor Matthias.

In the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University is a mysterious tome written in an indecipherable text known as the Voynich manuscript.  On the first page of the manuscript is written the name Jakub Horcicky de Tenepec, botanist and personal physician to Rudolf II.

With these historical events, Lafferty wove an engaging tale of a young girl of Krumlov who grew up in the shadows of Rozmberk Castle working in her mother's bathhouse and assisting her father, the Barber/Surgeon in his bloodletting.  Lafferty has created a great story based in the solid footings of historical events.

I highly recommend this book if you like historical fiction.

Lafferty has two other books, The Drowning Guard: A Novel of the Ottoman Empire and House of Bathory (starting in Slovakia in the early 1600's and concluding 400 years later in Colorado).  I have put them on my Kindle Wish List and I look forward to reading them both.  I just have to get through a few more of my started but not yet finished books first.

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