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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
Ledalina is the resurrected journal and collection of letters by its unknown, anonymous author, presumably written in the final trimester of the 19th century. The journal's keeper, Ishmael O. Ross, had the procured notebook and its entire contents translated by R. Batsbak from its native Dutch into English. What Batsbak reveals in doing so is the weaving of a first-person narrative that is, indeed, the stuff of fiction. In its raw, unedited, and translated format, the original author takes the reader on a journey of discovery and it is terrifying. In a series of events, the author appears to be chasing ghosts, pressing forward on the trail to find a Ms. “Ledalina van der W—.” This proves to raise far more questions than it answers, with run-ins and near-misses that include Mr van der W—, a brief but passionate tale by a brothel worker named Ruramai, and a British Officer in Durban who might be the only individual that does not honestly believe the author is responsible for either of the formers' untimely deaths in a baffling killing spree that even he cannot avoid.
Reading and reviewing someone's journal can be incredibly picky, primarily because it can feel like a critique of someone else's lived experiences and not the writing itself. Ledalina is the same, and this is a book I kept going back to in order to reference specific aspects again. The unknown author and the unexplainable dogma that keeps them going to find the truth is, in and of itself, a fascinating story. The original author grabs us and crisscrosses over days so eventful that it would amount to someone else's experiences in a whole lifetime. For all that she is and what we only know from the author's piecing together of stories from the vague recollections of Ledalina's past acquaintances, it is ultimately the author who carries the golden ticket, so to speak, and the climax unfolds in astonishing detail, preceded by them saying: “I am writing these last pages of my journal, hoping for the sake of everything holy and beautiful that I never have to open it again.” As a reader, I only wish they had put the pen to the same paper further down the line, resurrecting more experiences with the panache that the undead resurrected themselves.