My youngest son and I sailed away on a Caribbean cruise for Spring Break this year. Since it was his vacation, I told him he could do anything he wanted. He was on a basketball high from the Little Rock Trojans winning their first round game in the NCAA Tournament, and he wanted to play basketball. Lucky for him, there was a full basketball court on the ship. Lucky for me, there was a nearby lounge chair, a pool, unlimited pina coladas, and a great book. So while he lived out his hoop dreams, I immersed myself in life of Empress Elisabeth of Austria-Hungary (known as “Sisi”).
I have always been drawn to historical fiction. My Goodreads library, TBR list, Amazon wishlist, and Audible wishlist overflow with historical fiction from various times and places. However, this is the first book I have encountered about Sisi, and before reading it, I knew nothing about this tragic Empress. While this book is a follow up to Accidental Empress, which covers the early years of Sisi's marriage, I still found it enjoyable and easy to follow.
Sisi married the Emperor Franz Joseph when she was only 15 years old. The marriage thrust her not only into the role of Empress of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, but also into the middle of the revered Habsburg Family. Renowned for her beauty and her impossibly long hair, Sisi was also a sensitive and troubled soul. She wasn’t ready or equipped to handle the challenges at court. Her mother-in-law, Archduchess Sophie, believed Sisi too frivolous to manage the royal household. Sophie took control of all aspects of the life of the royal family, even overseeing the care of Sisi’s children without any input from Sisi. In addition, Sisi suffered from the infidelities of Franz Joseph and the intense scrutiny of the government and court. All this stress drove Sisi to flee from Vienna whenever possible, and she spent much of her life traveling abroad trying to find a sort of freedom. Ultimately, she met a tragic end, and her fierce need for independence may have played a small part.
This book brought up 3 points for me. First, real life is often stranger than fiction. There were several instances in the book, that I assumed were added to the story. However, in the epilogue, the author relates that many of these things actually happened the way she presented them. Secondly, the people we idolize are not perfect, they are flawed humans just like us. Sisi was often called a “fairy queen” and was loved by many. But like any other person, she made mistakes and possessed a darker side. I found myself getting frustrated with her at times. Thirdly, it made me wonder “what might have been”? In the epilogue, the author wonders how things might have been different for the world if Sisi’s relationship with her son had been different.
I love when a book introduces me to new material or subject matter, and I know I can look forward to reading more. I was excited that the author included a list of books for further reading regarding Sisi and her world. And thus, my TBR expands!
Book (ARC): Sisi: Empress on Her Own
Author: Allison Pataki
Publisher: Random House
Date Published: March 8, 2016
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers