Please click here for the synopsis of this novel provided by Goodreads.
I found this to be an easy, enjoyable read. I would say this novel is more for those who do not already know much about Empress Elisabeth rather than those who know a lot and wish her character to be explored more deeply. I fall into the former category so for me it was interesting to learn of who “Sisi” was and what she went through as Empress of the largest empire in Europe in the nineteenth century.
In many ways the beginnings of her story reminded me of an early Marie Antoinette. Sisi had to learn the strict protocols of Austrian etiquette and her life was dictated to her in a series of writings that told her what to do, how to act and what to say during almost every single second of her day. Sisi rails against this and therefore finds herself pushed aside from the Hapsburg inner circle by her overbearing mother-in-law Archduchess Sophie. Sophie implies to the court that Sisi is therefore too young and naive to take care of herself properly, subsequently leading to her complete ostracism from rule and her children being taken away to be raised by their grandmother. One cannot help but feel sorry for Empress Elisabeth.
However, Sisi eventually gains self confidence and self worth back again and due to this the last quarter of the novel was my favourite part. I was a bit disappointed that the four years that Sisi spent away from court whilst she gained this security of herself was not documented in the novel. Rather we jump forward four years and are introduced to Sisi as her new self. I loved her, yes, but I wished we could have witnessed this transformation throughout the pages.
Nonetheless the confident self-assured woman who is present for the latter part of the novel was very enjoyable to read of and I loved how the author showed how Sisi created private daily routines to gain control back of her own life. She did not revert back to the free spirited girl of her youth but rather matured into an intelligent and strong woman who did things on her own terms.
There are two main relationships in the novel that the author explores and they are very different from one another. First, the relationship between Sisi and her husband Emperor Franz Joseph and second, the relationship between Sisi and Andrassy, a liberal Hungarian count who wishes independence for his county. I loved how the author portrayed the former as an instant infatuation that quickly burned out and the later as an early dislike that grew to mutual respect and then eventually blossomed into love. The author drives home the point that a successful relationship is built on so much more than just lust. I really enjoyed reading of how Sisi and Andrassy’s relationship developed.
Overall an enjoyable read that was easy to get into and kept my attention throughout.