This novel was the second relating to Sisi, Empress Elisabeth of Austria-Hungary. Pataki takes us into the ritualized world of Austrian Royalty where every move is dictated by rules and regulations (including the rule that if the Emperor doesn’t speak during a family dinner, neither can anyone else). I did indeed read the first of these two novels, The Accidental Empress, (which I also recommend) but it can also stand on its own.
The story of this actual woman, an Empress who feels stifled, suffers depression and tries her hardest to have a life of her own is fascinating. Sisi traveled as far and wide as she was allowed. She lived through a time when Monarchies were falling and the world was re-inventing itself all around her. I really loved how history, letters, speeches and real events were interwoven within this fictional novel.
I highly recommend this novel. It gives an up-close and personal view of the life of the royals who don’t really have the life you would think that they would. I loved the historical facts and the family relationships as they were portrayed here. This is a book that I’ll be thinking of for some time, mostly about the wasted opportunities for good and healing both politically and personally that were left unfulfilled. Well done, Allison Pataki!