Sisi: Empress on Her Own

Dial. Mar. 2016. 464p. ISBN 9780812989052. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780812989069. F
Pataki continues her account of the life of Empress Elisabeth of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (The Accidental Empress), exploring the tensions between demands of Habsburg protocol and desire for autonomy. Determined to raise her youngest daughter without the interference of her domineering mother-in-law, Sisi realizes too late that long absences from Vienna have estranged her not only from her older children but also from her subjects. Although her husband, Franz Joseph, adores her, his obsession with maintaining political alliances as Europe disintegrates prior to World War I absorbs his attention. At her estate near Budapest, Sisi's relationship with Hungarian statesman Count Andrassy fuels vicious gossip as do her visits to England and Ireland, where she spends hours riding with Capt. Bay Middleton. Her unrivaled beauty and superb equestrian skills cannot shield her from tragedy. Pataki successfully juggles numerous political and personal plot lines while maintaining her focus on a fascinating central character. Extensive notes reveal the author's attention to detail and explain where the novel diverges from the historical record. Daisy Goodwin's The Fortune Hunter offers a more romanticized and extended portrayal of the Sisi-Middleton relationship.
VERDICT Readers of Pataki's first book will want to know the rest of Sisi's story, but this novel stands on its own for historical fiction fans.
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