As soon as I heard about this book I knew I had to read it. This is based entirely upon my love for Elisabeth das Musical, a German language musical all about Sisi narrated by her assassin. While this is a really great historical novel, I don't think anything can live up to my love for the musical so I was a bit disappointed.
This book is empowering to me because no matter my status or gender I know that there is always a way I can inspire others even though others may tell me otherwise.
Check out my review of "The Accidental Empress" on my blog at:
Too redundant. I much preferred Elisabeth the musical which is based on the same history.
I enjoyed reading this historical novel based on the life of Empress Elizabeth. The author begins the novel with Sisi's romantic wedding to her charming emperor husband at the age of 16 and describes why she fell out of love during the next 12 years of her marriage. The author handles the love scenes with Victorian age discretion. I got an impression of life at court in Vienna as the author describes quite well the food, the apartments, the clothes, child rearing practices, and the stiff rules of court behavior. The author is more sympathetic to Sisi than she is to Emperor Franz Joseph who faced some really tough military decisions as ruler of an empire during this time. However, readers will understand some of the decisions Sisi made when they read about her unbearable life at the Viennese court especially the pages which describe her feelings towards her dominating mother-in-law who controlled the rearing of Sisi's children and her increasingly emotionally and physically distant husband. Suitable for older teens.
Occasionally, the literary gods collide and present to us, within a few month’s time, novels based on the very same historical figure. Such is the case with Allison Pataki’s The accidental empress, and Daisy Goodwin’s The fortune hunter. Both books are firmly within the historical romance genre and aim to bring to the page the real-life noblewoman Elisabeth (‘Sisi”), Austrian Empress from 1853 to 1898.
Certainly, thumbnail encyclopedia descriptions of the Austro- Hungarian queen provide perfect source material: photographs and oil portraits as well as Victorian-era journals present her as an exceedingly beautiful, if contrary, woman. Elisabeth was famous for floor-length auburn hair and was considered the finest European equestrienne. She began royal life deeply in love with her charismatic, handsome and revered husband, the Emperor Franz Joseph, but the bond withered in the face of geographic enemies, war, personal tragedies – and also in the face of the Emperor’s controlling, powerful mother. Both novels approach Sisi’s story in a different way.
The accidental empress follows the young noblewoman from her teenage years, at home, in Bavaria and is told from Elisabeth’s view point. Far from the court’s eagle eye, Sisi and her older sister Helene were free to explore the beautiful German countryside on horseback and on foot. Both girls – along with their brother – were well educated but less familiar with rigorous society norms. At 15, Elisabeth travelled with her sister and her mother to the famed, gilded Viennese court. Older sibling Helene, with her quiet grace and handsome face, had caught the eye of the elderly Princess Sophie, Franz Joseph’s controlling, overbearing mother. Hoping for an easily molded daughter in law, the elder princess thought Helene perfectly suited to become empress alongside her son. Author Pataki does a lovely job of describing Sisi’s young, conflicted conscience, at once dazzled by her sumptuous surroundings and by the handsome young Franz, but also struggling with the knowledge that her dear sister Helene is destined to marry him and become empress. These chapters appear to have been a delight to write, fairly leaping off the page, echoing Elisabeth’s own childish enthusiasm at the gilded halls, exquisite gowns, jewelry and sumptuous dining.
However, both the empress and the author founder considerably through the transition to adult married life. Long chapters scroll through the same pattern: , the young Empress finds some small happiness in her pregnancies or court achievements only to be severely reprimanded by both her mother in law and left unsupported by her husband. Sadness and isolation overwhelm Sisi. While the marriage may in fact have imploded in this way, Pataki could have covered this period more swiftly – moving forward to the intriguing second half of Elisabeth’s life.
Conversely, The fortune hunter gallops breathlessly through Sisi’s estrangement from court.
Regardless, both The accidental empress and The fortune hunter are solid reads for those who enjoy the genre. For time pressed readers or those hankering for more depth, Daisy Goodwin’s tale of the Empress Sisi ("The fortune hunter") may be the more satisfying choice.
Enjoyable story about an historical woman with whom I was not familiar. The story is okay-a tad melodramatic at times-and does not give you any indication of what happened to this woman after she became Queen of Hungary. The book would have been improved with a genealogical chart, because even though it was fiction, the main characters are real. The article on Elizabeth in Wikipedia is worth reading for more information.
I liked reading about a historical figure that I previously knew nothing about. However, I found the language to be overly dramatic and the characterization to be very stereotyped. I feel like fans of dramatic historical fiction who aren't bothered by authors taking significant creative liberties will still like this book!
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