Finished September 15
The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki
This historical novel keeps to the facts for the most part, telling the story of Elizabeth, "Sisi," the Austro-Hungarian Empress of Franz Joseph from late childhood in 1853 until Hungarian self-rule was established in 1867. She was born a duchess of Bavaria and enjoyed a remarkably free childhood, spending a lot of time outdoors, riding horses and enjoying nature. Her mother's sister was the mother to the young Emperor, and held a great deal of power as she served as regent until he came of age. It is true that her accession to Empress was not planned. Her older sister was intended as the one to marry Franz Joseph, but he became enamored of the younger lively sister and fought to have her as his bride. While Pataki has written the conversations that take place between the various players here, she draws on my historical resources to do so, creating an entirely believable personal insight into the royal historical characters. Sisi was very young when she married, just sixteen, and she got pregnant almost immediately. Alone at court without anyone she felt close to, other than her maid, she would have been easily manipulated by those more experienced with court life.
She was beloved by the people, and that comes across well here, as does the special relationship that she developed with the Hungarian people, having a definite influence on the nation's development.
I enjoyed seeing her learn and grow in her chosen role. The loss of innocence was necessary in her circumstances, but she sounded true to life. In the author interview at the back of the book, it sounds like she plans to write more about this fascinating Empress, and I look forward to reading more about Sisi.