(Cover picture courtesy of random buzzers.)
Saturday, September 24, 1853
Finding myself the most important person in the whole household and the constant center of attention is most unnerving and disturbing. I wish it were not so, but there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do to stop it.
I can’t go out anywhere unless everyone knows where I am because there are so many great personages and foreign delegations arriving night and day to meet me….
Possi used to be so serene and calming, but now that I have so much to do, it is far from that. I hardly have any time to spend with my animals, walk in the woods, or even ride with Poppy.
I wish I could go back to the way things were….
My first thought upon finishing this book: No wonder the monarchies all around Europe fell. Such extravagance, ingrained traditions and lack of self-awareness! Such inbreeding! (Well, that was what the Hapsburgs were famous for, after all.)
If this wasn’t real historical fact, I’d be laughing at the cliché premise. I mean, really? A young princess goes with her older sister and mother to meet the Emperor of Austria with the hopes of arranging a marriage. The older sister is the one he’s supposed to marry, but the young Emperor falls in love with the younger sister and after a whirlwind courtship, the two marry soon after. Believe it or not, it’s all true and the incredibly short ‘diary’ that Barry Denenberg wrote (only 93 pages of actual fiction; the rest is historical notes) from Elisabeth’s point of view reflects the crazy pace of said courtship. Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.
I would have liked Elisabeth to be fleshed out a little more before meeting the Emperor, but she was a very interesting character. There are hints at the Empress’ eating disorder in her teenage years, as shown by her obsessive weight-watching and her vanity shines through as well. Despite that, she is a very interesting character that tweens and young teens will love. Of course, having her being courted by a handsome, powerful young man certainly helps the story’s appeal.
Readers will see the extravagance of the Austrian court and I personally began wondering why the Hapsburgs hadn’t fallen sooner. I mean, really, marrying first cousins? And even if the centuries of inbreeding didn’t do them in, you would think the populace would revolt at the extravagance of the monarchy. Barry Denenberg really did a great job showing the entirely different world the royals lived in at the time; it’s hard to believe it all took place in the 19th century. (Yes, my anti-monarch bias is showing, I know.) As for how historically accurate things were, I can’t really say because that’s not my area of expertise, but it seems to be very well researched.
I give this book 4/5 stars.
*Available only as a used book.