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?
Featuring larger-than-life historic figures such as Bavaria's “Mad King Ludwig” and the tragic Crown Prince Rudolf, and set against many of Europe's grandest sites—from Germany's storied Neuschwanstein Castle to England's lush shires—Sisi brings to life an extraordinary woman and the romantic, volatile era over which she presided.
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published March 8th 2016 by The Dial Press
arc via publisher through netgalley
Allison Pataki's previous novel The Accidental Empress was my introduction to, not just the author but the Hapsburgs as well. Empress Elizabeth's story continues pretty well where it left of in the previous book. I found that book to be fast paced and it showed her carefree life shortly before her wedding and than her years with Franz Joseph. Where previously she had little control of her life, with Sisi: Empress on Her Own she has taken that control back.
Where previously I was saddened by her lot in life, feeling her separation from her children and struggles with Sophie (mother-in-law), with this book I felt different struggles that she endured. It was like she was searching for something but just couldn't figure out what it was. Often compared to the modern day Princess Diana, I can the similarities perfectly. Life still isn't easy for Sisi, with children she barely knows, a country that feels she abandoned them and not knowing who can trust. Sisi does things others don't understand, who are quick to criticize and she has to deal with its repercussions.
Sisi: Empress on Her Own is a gripped story best read after The Accidental Empress to get the whole picture of her past and to fully understand her life here. This was a slower paced book just still entertaining and kept my attention.
I loved the authors writing style and enjoyed the cameos here, Queen Victoria, Countess Rothschild and King Ludwig and his spooky castle. Her descriptive writing brought this story to life and again showed her passion for Sisi and the Hapsburg empire.
Thank you Random House for a review copy via Netgalley.