Please Note: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not influence my opinions in my review in any way.
Synopsis (From GoodReads):Married to Emperor Franz Joseph, Elisabeth—fondly known as Sisi—captures the hearts of her people as their “fairy queen,” but beneath that dazzling persona lives a far more complex figure. In mid-nineteenth-century Vienna, the halls of the Hofburg Palace buzz not only with imperial waltzes and champagne but with temptations, rivals, and cutthroat intrigue. Feeling stifled by strict protocols and a turbulent marriage, Sisi grows restless. A free-spirited wanderer, she finds solace at her estate outside Budapest. There she rides her beloved horses and enjoys visits from the Hungarian statesman Count Andrássy, the man with whom she’s unwittingly fallen in love. But tragic news brings Sisi out of her fragile seclusion, forcing her to return to her capital and a world of gossip, envy, and sorrow where a dangerous fate lurks in the shadows.
Through love affairs and loss, dedication and defiance, Sisi struggles against conflicting desires: to keep her family together, or to flee amid the collapse of her suffocating marriage and the gathering tumult of the First World War. In an age of crumbling monarchies, Sisi fights to assert her right to the throne beside her husband, to win the love of her people and the world, and to save an empire. But in the end, can she save herself?
Review:It's taken me a while to write this review. I needed time to digest the material and decide how I wanted to describe this book. In short, I loved Sisi, by Allison Pataki for it's epic storytelling, detailed depictions of the Austrian court, and balanced accounting of it's main character.
Sisi is storytelling on an epic scale. Besides Sisi (Empress Elisabeth), there is the tale of her tortured son, Rudolf, her infamous cousin "Mad King Ludwig" of Bavaria, and the many men Sis charmed along the way. Throughout the book, the author alludes to a family history of depression and suicide. The tales of family members (taken from history) assist the reader in understanding that these were real people with serious problems.
I particularly loved all the details about King Ludwig. His fairy-tale castle is said to be the inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty castle at Disneyland. So hearing the many details of why it was built and it's significance held a deep interest for me.
I love books about royalty and court politics and this did not disappoint. One can see how, just like in the French court of Louis XVI, the weight of etiquette and propriety was causing the aristocracy to slowly crumble. I think Sisi could see how the world was changing but the ruling classes were not. This frustrated her to no end.
In it's depiction of the Empress, the author presents an even look at both the good and unflattering parts of Sisi's personality. At times, Sisi comes off as spoiled and self-centered. She is used to getting what she wants and often doesn't consider how others will pay for her actions. But the book also shows Sisi's generosity and kindness. Even though she has a difficult relationship with her mother-in-law, Sophie, Sisi comes to understand and love her. And she does appreciate her husband, even though their different temperaments make having a traditional marriage impossible.
If you love historical fiction, sweeping epics, and tragic characters, you are in for a treat. This is a wondrous novel.
Release Date: March 8th, 2016
Recommendation: A detailed historical fiction filled with colorful characters and epic tragedies, this is a must read.