The Shadow Land: A Novel

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The Shadow Land: A Novel

ዮ Free Download The Shadow Land: A Novel ጦ PDF Author Elizabeth Kostova ፯ OneSofia, the year 2008 The month of May, impeccable spring weather, and the goddess Capitalism sitting on her long since tawdry throne On the top step outside Hotel Forest hovered a young woman, a girl than a woman, and a foreignerwhich she also wasthan anything else The hotel looked out over NDK, the former communist regimes palace of culture, a giant concrete blossom now patrolled by teenagers sunlight falling across the plaza glinted off their spiky heads Alexandra Boyd, exhausted from an endless plane ride, stood watching the Bulgarian kids on their skateboards and trying to tuck her long straight hair behind one ear To her right rose apartment buildings of ochre and gray stucco, as well as recent glass and steel construction and a billboard that showed a woman in a bikini whose breasts surged out toward a bottle of vodka Stately trees bloomed near the billboard, white and magentahorse chestnuts, which Alexandra had seen during a trip to France in college, her only other time on the European continent Her eyes were gritty, her scalp grimed with the sweat of travel She needed to eat, shower, sleepyes, sleep, after the final flight from Amsterdam, that jerking awake every few minutes into self exile across an ocean She glanced down at her feet to make sure they were still there Except for a pair of bright red sneakers, her clothes were simplethin blouse, blue jeans, a sweater tied around her waistso that she felt dowdy next to the tailored skirts and stilettos that made their way past her On her left wrist, she wore a wide black bracelet in her ears, spears of obsidian She gripped the handles of a rolling suitcase and a dark satchel containing a guidebook, a dictionary, extra clothes Over her shoulder she carried a computer bag and her loose multicolored purse with a notebook and a paperback of Emily Dickinson at the very bottom.From her plane window, Alexandra had seen a city cradled in mountains and flanked by towering apartment buildings like tombstones Stepping off the plane with her new camera in her hand, shed breathed unfamiliar aircoal and diesel and then a gust that smelled of plowed earth She had walked across the tarmac and onto the airport bus, observed shiny new customs booths and their taciturn officials, the exotic stamp in her passport Her taxi had looped around the edges of Sofia and into the heart of the citya longer route than necessary, she now suspectedbrushing past outdoor caf tables and lampposts that bore political placards or signs for sex shops From the taxi window, shed photographed ancient Fords and Opels, new Audis with tinted gangster windows, large slow buses, and trolleys like clanking Megalosauruses that threw sparks from their iron rails To her amazement, shed seen that the center of the city was paved with yellow cobblestones.But the driver had somehow misunderstood her request and dropped her here, at Hotel Forest, not at the hostel shed booked weeks earlier Alexandra hadnt understood the situation, either, until he was gone and she had mounted the steps of the hotel to get a closer look Now she was alone, thoroughly than she had ever been in her twenty six years In the middle of the city, in the middle of a history about which she had no real idea, among people who went purposefully up and down the steps of the hotel, she stood wondering whether to descend and try to get another taxi She doubted she could afford the glass and cement monolith that loomed at her back, with its tinted windows, its crow like clients in dark suits hustling in and out or smoking on the steps One thing seemed certain she was in the wrong place.Alexandra might have stood this way long minutes , but suddenly the doors slid open just behind her and she turned to see three people coming out of the hotel One of them was a white haired man in a wheelchair clutching several travel bags against his suit jacket A tall middle aged man held onto the chair with one hand and a cell phone with the other he was speaking with someone Beside him stood their companion, an old woman with one hand on the tall mans elbow and a purse dangling from her wrist, bowlegged beneath her black dress Her hair was auburn, with streaks of gray that radiated from a painfully bare parting The middle aged man finished his call and hung up The old lady looked up at him and he bent over to tell her something.Alexandra moved aside and watched them struggle across the hotel landing to the top of the steps and felt, as she often did, a stab of compassion for other peoples fates There was no way for them to descend, no ramp or wheelchair access, as there would have been at home But the dark haired tall man appeared to be magically strong he bent and lifted the older man out of the chair, taking his luggage along And the woman seemed to come alive inside her empty gaze, long enough to fold the chair with a few practiced motions and carry it slowly down the stepsshe, too, was stronger than she looked.Alexandra picked up her own satchels and suitcase and followed them, feeling that their sense of purpose might propel her forward At the bottom of the steps, the tall man put the old man back into the wheelchair They all rested a moment, Alexandra standing almost next to them at the edge of the taxi lane She saw that the tall man was dressed in a black vest and an immaculate white shirt, too warm and formal for the day His trousers were also too shiny, his black shoes too highly polished His thick dark hair, with its sheen of silver, was brushed firmly back from his forehead A strong profile Up close he looked younger than shed first thought him He was frowning, his face flushed, glance sharp It was hard for her to tell whether he was nearer to thirty eight or fifty five She realized through her fatigue that he might be one of the handsomest men shed ever observed, broad shouldered and dignified under his somehow out of date clothes, his nose long and elegant, the cheekbones flowing up toward narrow bright eyes when he turned slightly in her direction Fine grooves radiated from the edges of his mouth, as if he had a different face that he reserved for smiling She saw that he was too old for her after all His hand hung at his side, only a few feet from one of hers She felt an actual twinge of desire, and took a step away.Now the tall man went over to the window of the nearest taxi and plunged into some sort of negotiation the taxi drivers voice rose in protest Alexandra wondered if she might learn something from all this While she was watching, she had a moment of vertigo, so that the traffic receded to an uncomfortable buzz in her ears and then returned louderjet lag The tall man could not seem to come to an agreement with the driver, even when the old woman leaned in and added indignant words of her own The driver waved a dismissive hand and rolled up his window.The tall man picked up their luggage again, three or four nylon and canvas bags, and stepped to another taxi, even nearer to where Alexandra stood She resolved not to try the first driver herself Then the tall man abruptly concluded his bargaining and opened the back door of this acceptable new cab He set their luggage down on the sidewalk and helped the crooked figure out of the wheelchair and into the back seat.Alexandra wouldnt have moved toward them again if the old woman hadnt suddenly stumbled, trying to get into the taxi beside the old man Alexandra reached out and caught the womans upper arm in a firm sudden grip she hadnt known herself capable of Through the black fabric of the sleeve, she could feel a bone, surprisingly light and warm The woman turned to stare at her, then righted herself and said something in Bulgarian, and the tall man looked fully around at Alexandra for the first time Maybe he wasnt really handsome, she thought it was just that his eyes were remarkablelarger than theyd seemed from the side, the irises amber when the sunlight touched them He and the old lady both smiled at her he helped his mother carefully into the seat of the taxi, reaching back with his other hand for their bags It was as if he knew Alexandra would come to their rescue again And she did, catching the smaller bags up in a tangle and passing them to him He seemed to be in a hurry now She kept a grip on her own heavy satchel and laptop, and especially on her purse, just in case.He straightened up and glanced down at the bags she had handed to him Then he looked at her again.Thank you very much, he said to her in heavily accented Englishwas it so obvious that she was a foreigner Can I help you she asked, and felt foolish.You already helped me, he said Now his face was sad, the momentary smile gone Are you in Bulgaria for a vacation No, she said To teach Are you visiting Sofia from somewhere else After she said this, she realized it might not sound complimentary It was true that he and his elderly parents did not look cosmopolitan in this setting But he was the first person she had really spoken to in almost two days, and she didnt want to stop, although the old man and the old woman were waiting for him in the cab.He shook his head She had read in her guidebook that Bulgarians traditionally nodded to mean no and shook their heads to mean yes, but that not everyone did this any She wondered which category the tall man fell into.Our planit was to go to Velin Monastery, he said He glanced behind him, as if expecting to see someone else It is very pretty and famous You must visit it.She liked his voice Yes, Ill try to do that, she said.He did smile thenslightly, without activating all the grooves He smelled of soap, and of clean wool He started to turn away, but paused Do you like Bulgaria People say that it is the place where anything will happen Can happen, he corrected himself.Alexandra hadnt been even in Sofia long enough to know what she thought of the country.Its beautiful, she said finally, and saying this reminded her of the mountains she had seen as she flew in Really beautiful, she added with conviction.He inclined his head to one side, seemed to bow a littlepolite people, Bulgariansand turned toward the cab.May I take your picture she said quickly Would you mind Youre the first people Ive talked with here She wanted a photograph of himthe most interesting face shed ever seen, and now would never see again.The tall man bent obligingly close to the open cab door, although he looked anxious She had the impression that he was in a hurry But the old woman leaned out toward Alexandra with a smile of her own dentures, too white and regular The old man did not turn he sat gazing ahead in the back seat of the taxi Alexandra pulled her camera out of her purse and took a swift shot She wondered if she should offer to send the picture to them, later, but she wasnt sure that elderly people in this countryor a formal looking middle aged manpassed photos around on email, especially with strangers.Thank you, she said Mersi That was the simple Bulgarian version of thanks she couldnt bring herself to attempt the longer, infinitely harder word shed tried to memorize The tall man stared at her for a moment, and she thought his face was even sadder He raised a hand to her and shut his old people quickly into the cab Then he swung down into the front seat beside the driver Their conversation had taken only a couple of minutes, but a taxi somewhere along the line had lost patience and was honking The driver of the little family took off with a rush of tires and moved into the river of traffic, vanishing at once.A compelling and complex mystery, strong storytelling, and lyrical writing combine for an engrossing read Publishers WeeklyIn The Shadow Land, Elizabeth Kostova, a master storyteller, brings vividly to life an unfamiliar countryBulgariaand a painful history that feels particularly relevant now You wont want to put down this remarkable book.Claire Messud, author of The Woman Upstairs In this brilliant work, what appears at first a minor mystery quickly becomes emblematic of a whole countrys hidden history Lyrical and compelling, The Shadow Land proves a profound meditation on how evil is inflicted, endured, and, through courage and compassion, defeated Elizabeth Kostovas third novel clearly establishes her as one of Americas finest writers.Ron Rash, author of The Risen The Shadow Land is thrilling, and not just as a gripping tale Its also thrilling to watch such a talented writer cast her spell The central character actually begins this deft novel in an urn, only to emerge as one of the most memorable characters Ive encountered in a long time.Richard Russo, author of Everybody s Fool Transporting draws us into Bulgarian history and character revelation like an elegant, mysterious labyrinth Page turning, evocative, and richly imagined.Dominic Smith, author of The Last Painting of Sara de VosPraise for Elizabeth Kostovas The HistorianQuite extraordinary Kostova is a natural storyteller She has refashioned the vampire myth into a compelling contemporary novel, a late night page turner San Francisco ChronicleHypnotic a thrill ride through history The Denver PostPart thriller, part history, part romance Kostova has a keen sense of storytelling and she has a marvelous story to tell Balti SunKostovas vampire is no campy Lugosi knockoff Blending history and myth, Kostova has fashioned a version so fresh that when a stake is finally driven through a heart, it inspires the tragic shock of something happening for the very first time NewsweekPraise for The Swan ThievesExquisite The Boston GlobeEngrossing O The Oprah MagazineStunning A beautifully written tale of art, love and an obsession triggered by both.Associated Press The Shadow Land: A Novel

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