Book Review Club: Sisi: Empress on her Own #HistoricalFiction

Sisi Empress coverSisi: Empress on her Own
by Allison Pataki
Historical Fiction

This is the second of two books about Empress Elizabeth, wife of Franz Joseph, Emperor of Austria-Hungary. Her nickname was Sisi. The first book is The Accidental Empress, and I do recommend reading it first, which I didn’t do.

Sisi picks up when she is 30 and living on her estate in Hungary. She is somewhat estranged from Franz Joseph at this point, and apparently having an affair with Julius Andrassy, a Hungarian count and patriot. Shortly into the book Franz Joseph appoints Andrassy Foreign Secretary in the government, ending the affair.

Sisi was known for her beauty. She was the supermodel of her day (mid-late 19th c.) as she was 5’8″ tall, slender and beautiful, with a mane of brown hair that reached to the floor. It took at least 3 hours for her to be dressed and coiffed every day. She spent some of that time reading and learning languages; she spoke at least five. This is probably the most famous portrait of her.

Winterhalter_Elisabeth_2

Empress Elisabeth of Austria in Courtly Gala Dress with Diamond Stars. Attribution: Franz Xaver Winterhalter [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sisi married early, at age 15, and had three children. Her domineering mother-in-law, Duchess Sophie, took the first two children away from her and restricted her time with them. When she became pregnant again, she grabbed the baby and ran off to Hungary, determined to raise this child, at least, on her own.

Schoenbrun Palace

Schoenbrun Palace, Sisi’s summer home in Vienna

The book follows Sisi’s life for the next 30 years, in which she spent more time away from Vienna than not, hence the title Empress on Her Own. Her husband loved her, but he hadn’t been faithful. She was assassinated by an Italian anarchist in Geneva in 1896. (Not a spoiler since she was a real person and the first thing we see in the book is the anarchist stalking her.) She was not popular in her time, but was later, after she died. All in all, her life was rather sad.

The book was well-written and interesting, if not gripping. I learned a lot about Austro-Hungarian life and politics. I particularly enjoyed the chapters set during the Vienna World Expo in 1873, and the scenes with mad King Ludwig, Sisi’s cousin, were fascinating.

As always, click on the graphic below for more great reviews in Barrie Summy’s Book Review Club.

What are you reading?

Linda

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@Barrie Summy

Telling Stories #MFRWAuthor #Blog Challenge #amwriting

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This week’s prompt in the #MFRWauthor 52-Week #Blog Challenge is Why I Write. That’s a good question and I don’t know that I have a good answer.

Mostly it’s because I’m a book junkie and have been since childhood. I fell in love with the written word and the power of story as a child and the magic never wanes. I love to read books and I love to tell stories. In my opinion, writers of popular fiction (romance, mystery, fantasy, etc.) are storytellers rather than writers. You can write a non-fiction book or article and provide useful, interesting, factual information, but when you write a piece of fiction, you are telling a story. And I love telling stories.

Wired For Story coverI’ve been slowly working my way through Lisa Cron’s book, Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence and taking the time to mark relevant passages and ponder what she said. The important takeaway is that scientists now know that the human brain is wired for story. It’s how we learn.

Besides finding that fact fascinating, I also find myself awed by the power of storytelling. In light of this revelation, I think it’s more important than ever for fiction writers to “get it right”. For instance, readers expect to learn a little history when they pick up a historical novel. I try to do my best to convey the period as accurately as possible, while not dwelling on the more unpleasant aspects of times past. Like the smelly horse dung in the street and the lack of sanitation, etc. You get the drift. But I also try to stay true to actual historical facts. It’s a balancing act, and the things that trip us up are the ones we didn’t think we had to look up.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Linda

As always, click on the linky list below to find out why other romance authors write.

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