The String Diaries
From 19th-century Hungary to present-day Wales, a malevolent and mysterious creature has stalked one family, torturing and murdering them to appease its cruel whims and twisted desires. In THE STRING DIARIES by Stephen Lloyd Jones, Hannah Wilde decides to end generations of fear and loss by finally confronting the force that has cost her and her family so much, hoping to save her young daughter from suffering the same fate.
"A supernatural thriller whose antagonist shares characteristics with literary vampires, shape-shifters and love-mad killers, THE STRING DIARIES is a strange and compelling story with a haunting premise and an increasingly frantic pace."
In 1893 Hungary, a boy named Lukács is coming of age in the way of his people, the legendary hosszú élet. They are a culture whose long lives and strange powers of healing and transformation defy explanation and make ordinary humans nervous. But Lukács does not have all the powers that are expected of him, and he is coldly rejected by a young woman at the first ball where he is meant to secure a future mate. Instead of trying again, Lukács rejects the customs of the hosszú élet and finds companionship with two opium addicts, one of whom, Krisztina, he develops feelings for. Later, Lukács transforms himself into the image of another man and rapes Krisztina, leaving the man whose shape he assumed to hang for the crime. Lukács brings shame to his family and to his people. After his father fails to bring him in to take responsibility, his older brother Jani is charged with killing him and restoring honor. Until the time of his death, at the hands of his brother or another hosszú élet, Lukács is to be known as Jakab.
A year later, Jakab meets and falls in love with Erna Novák, and the two plan to marry. But when the hosszú élet catch up with him, he leaves Erna with a promise to return soon. Somehow, five years pass before he comes back, but by then Erna is happily married with a son. The sight of Erna and her son, Carl, coupled with the knowledge that she is married, makes Jakab furious. But a confrontation in the woods with Erna, her husband Hans and the hosszú élet who have tracked Jakab to that spot, drives him insane. What follows is over 200 years of Jakab, mad with sorrow, pain, hatred and rage, following the female descendants of Erna and murdering the men and women of the family who keep him from them.
THE STRING DIARIES follows Jakab as he tries to outrun those who seek to destroy him and manipulate the women of Erna's family, several of whom look remarkably like her. The author spends a lot of time in the late 1970s with Erna's granddaughter, Nicole, and her husband, Charles, who move from England to France to escape Jakab's attentions, creating an elaborate system to validate the identity of everyone they know so as not to be fooled by Jakab in another form. The novel's third perspective is that of Hannah Wilde, the only daughter of Charles and Nicole, who finds herself fleeing for the isolated lake shores of Wales with her own daughter, Leah, and her injured husband, Nate. As a final confrontation with Jacob looms, Hannah must decide who she can trust and how much she is willing to risk to rid the family of Jakab once and for all.
A supernatural thriller whose antagonist shares characteristics with literary vampires, shape-shifters and love-mad killers, THE STRING DIARIES is a strange and compelling story with a haunting premise and an increasingly frantic pace. Playing with themes of identity and family loyalty, Stephen Lloyd Jones has a few great surprises in store for readers and has penned a strong, likable and brave character in Hannah Wilde.
Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on July 3, 2014