Customer Review

92 of 98 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars (3.5 stars) Madness, medicine and murder, 23 Sept. 2012
This review is from: The Bloodletter's Daughter (A Novel of Old Bohemia) (Paperback)
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Set between 1606-1608 in Bohemia, this is an entertaining though rather uncomplicated story of madness, lust, obsession, and murder.

On the plus side, this is told in a clear and vivid fashion, and the history is smoothed out to be immediately accessible and understandable to readers who might know nothing about seventeenth century Europe.

On the not so positive side, however, there are various flaws in the book: it's too long, for one, and everything unrolls in a very slow fashion. Some of the writing is laughably clichéd: girls are `sweet and defenceless', men are `beasts'; men `roar' when they're angry, villains `snicker' quite a lot. Our heroine, in typical popular historical novel fashion, has modern career ambitions and wants to be a doctor.

My biggest irritation is the familiar use of contemporary Americanisms (`fall' for autumn, the ubiquitous `gotten') which destroy any historical atmosphere; and linguistic anachronisms which jarred me immediately out of the seventeenth century - particularly noticeable are a coarse slang word for semen which doesn't come into use in this sense until 1890, men who are described as `randy' (not in use till 1961), and - my favourite - `she pulled off his pants and folded them'... err, not in 1606 she didn't.

Not everyone will be bothered by things like this, I know, but they served to destroy the atmosphere and illusion of the seventeenth century that the narrative was at pains to build. So a mixed response from me: at heart, there is an entertaining read here, no literary masterpiece but a colourful and interesting story - 3.5 stars.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 19 Aug 2013 19:10:52 BDT
Marvin says:
Gotten actually dates back to the Middle Ages and did not drop out of common usage in British English till around the 18th century.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Aug 2013 09:14:39 BDT
Last edited by the author on 21 Aug 2013 10:37:51 BDT
Kristin says:
Hello Marvin,
This may well be the case but it is long enough not to be bombarded with it in Historical books that I and so many other women love to read; I am talking about excellent writers here, not the chick-lit type, of which I know very little. Dorothy Dunnett hasn't ever resorted to that in all her wonderful books. then again, she was Scottish!
Thank you for the information and, by the way, where do you find this information as I would like to have a browse myself?

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Aug 2013 14:20:46 BDT
Roman Clodia says:
Yes, Marvin, you're right, 'gotten' is in use in, for example, sixteenth-century English texts - but I don't think it's being used in this book because it's historically-accurate.

Kristin, yes, Dunnett is wonderful! The best source for English usage, when words come into use and how their meanings shift over time is the Oxford English Dictionary which should be available in most reference libraries.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Aug 2013 10:45:54 BDT
Kristin says:
Thank you, Roman, shame on me for being so lazy and expecting other kind people do the work for me; I have bookcases bursting with all genres and three large Dictionaries, one of which is the OED!
Many thanks, Kristin.
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