I don’t tend to gravitate toward historical fiction. I’ve been so interested in reading another’s real life story, fiction lost it’s appeal to me.
When I read the back of Allison Pataki’s new novel, Sisi: Empress On Your Own, I was intrigued, I was intrigued.
How could an empress become restless? I mean she has family, an emperor as her husband and wealth to go wherever she wanted.
She showed she was human.
Through the death of her first born daughter. Through how her mother-in-law took over raising her second oldest children, Giesla and Rudy. How she found herself attracted to other places and men, all whole married to Franz Joseph, whose motto was: I don’t change.
I found the family dynamic the most interesting. Because of Sisi’s sadness of her two eldest children being taken away, she poured into her youngest, Valerie. There was a strain in all of their relationships throughout Sisi’s life and I loved how Allison captured these moments: Rudy’s weeping to his mother over a book of poetry he thought she’d love, to Franz breaking his cool, yelling at his son about not being worthy enough for the throne.
Allison also captured a tender moment toward the end of Sisi’s life, where Franz and her part for the last time. He kisses her on the forehead, May God keep you, my darling Sisi.
I loved the way Allison incorporated favorite quotes from Sisi’s favorite poet and playwrights throughout the book. It gave an interesting look of how she must have felt most of time. Learning new words I’ve never heard before was a lot of fun, how they spoke during that time.
Imp (devil) and careworn (worried) being two of my faves.
There was so much in the book that made it difficult for me to tell what was fact and fiction. Allison includes notes at the end of the story, with resources if you want to dig deeper.
I didn’t like the lengthy descriptions of the palaces or Sisi’s beauty regiment. The gilt chandeliers, plates. The tight dresses adorned with jewels and the diadems a hairdresser put in her hair.
I know Allison was this so you felt like your were actually a part of with Sisi. It was felt too much to me. I was more into the dialogue between her and her ladies in waiting, her family, and anyone she came into contact with.
Other than that, I’m glad I stuck with the story. Even though so much sadness and longing trailed Sisi’s life, it shows we are all the same, regardless if we are royalty or not.
We want to be free. And between the history and fiction, this novel will definitely make you feel like you’re somewhere far away, lost with an empress who dared to break away.