Review of “Sisi: Empress on Her Own” by Allison Pataki

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I really loved The Traitor’s Wife  by Allison Pataki and was super-excited at the opportunity to read and review Sisi: Empress on Her Own. Unfortunately, it fell a little flat for me. I’m not sure if, in part at least, it’s because I didn’t read The Accidental Empress. I found the comparison to Princess Diana to be quite a stretch since Sisi seemed to face consistent criticism for her lack of attention to her royal duties and detachment from her subjects. There was really nothing about her I found endearing or relatable.  In fact, I found her to be really seemed rather selfish. And though I’m sure that “troubled” would be the preferred light in which to paint her, I really just didn’t get that. For example, when her daughter Gisela wrote imploring her to come home and address the cruel measures being used to discipline and strengthen the constitution of her young son Rudolph, she did do so, but she never followed through in any way to try to alleviate the emotional damage that had already been inflicted; in fact she turned an absolutely blind eye to his own cruel actions. Throughout the book, it seemed that she really just wanted to skate by, getting away with accepting the bare minimum of responsibilities. Though the result of a long marriage having gone loveless, she actually had many freedoms for a woman of that time and I would have liked to see her use them for endeavors that were not always self-serving. I suppose I just wanted her to be a stronger woman in general. One who would face her problems rather than run from them.

I did enjoy learning about Sisi’s cousin, Ludwig II of Bavaria, who  proved to be an interesting story and character unto himself. Probably gay, an eccentric patron of the arts, a wild spender of his empire’s fortunes, and possible clinically insane, he made for an actually likable, if not conventional man of his times. Throw in a suspicious and untimely death and there’s another novel in the making, I think.

Though I can’t give this book an overwhelmingly positive review, I would certainly look forward to reading Allsion Pataki’s next book. She’s a great writer who clearly does her homework. I think part of the problem for me, with this book, is that I didn’t find Sisi to be a great heroine. And while that not the author’s fault, it’s hard to separate from my overall feelings about the book.

My rating: 3 stars

Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group via NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review of “Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O’Keeffe” by Dawn Tripp

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Wow. Dawn Tripp can write!

“Here I am again. Held down, held back, in a power struggle with some arrogant man, his ego and incompetence that has nothing to do with my art. It’s like they’re all together in some maddening conspiracy to make me good enough, but not good enough to topple them.”

Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O’Keeffe  is a beautifully written account of Georgia O’Keefe’s life. As a work of historical fiction, it’s all it should be. The settings, from Lake George to Taos are vividly rendered. The research is obviously there. The real beauty, though, is the way the characters become known to us. I think it must be very difficult to make a reader feel so intimately connected to the characters; especially if the characters are historical figures with bios that can be read all over the internet.

Georgia’s life with Stieglitz went from pillar to post. He was her nurturing mentor and earliest fan. She was the stability and loving home he needed. Though, at times, I was frustrated, saddened, and even enraged at his man/boy antics, it was very clear that they shared a very deep connection. She gave up so much to be with him. Or did she? What would her life, both personal and professional, have been like without him? Though we like to think the times are so very different now, women continue with many of these struggles in an effort to balance everything we need and want in our lives. We probably always will. While I loved Georgia for her strength, creativity, and perseverance,  I was most impressed with Georgia’s maturity and wisdom:

“… despite the fact that he can still make me so angry, in the end he is just a man whose sunlight is behind him.”

I love discovering an author, previously unknown to me, whose next book I’m already looking forward to.

My rating: 4.75 stars

Thank you to Random House Publishing, via NetGalley, for providing me with a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review of “Tears in the Grass” by Lynda Archer

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Tears in the Grass is the story of Elinor, a 90 year old Cree woman, and her quest to find the child that was taken from her as a newborn while she was living in a residential school. The child, a girl named Bright Eyes, was born after Elinor was raped by a man at the school. The year is now 1968 and more than 70 years have past. Elinor has never forgotten her beautiful daughter. She never told her late husband, or any other family member about this child, keeping the feelings of guilt and sorrow to herself. She knows her time is growing short and enlists the help of her daughter, Louise, and grandaughter, Alice.

Both Louise and Alice also have a secret. There is more focus on Louise’s though I’m not sure it really added much to the story. While I get the “everyone’s got a secret” theme, it felt a little gratuitous; a convenient commonality to connect Elinor and Louise after a difficult past relationship.

While I enjoyed many aspects of Elinor’s character, including her tenacity, wisdom and connection to nature, this book was a bit flat for me overall. I finished the book without really feeling connection or attachment to any of the characters. It wasn’t terrible; I just couldn’t get excited about anything.

My rating: 2.75 stars

Thanks to Dundurn Press via NetGalley for providing me with a free e-galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.