I love when historical fiction leads me down a path of learning. Ecstasy by Mary Sharratt did just that. I knew very little about either of the Mahlers and now I want to know more. I thank Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for sending me a copy at no charge for my honest review.
Publication Date: April 10, 2018
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Hardcover & eBook; 400 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction/Literary
In the glittering hotbed of turn-of-the-twentieth century Vienna, one woman’s life would define and defy an era.
Gustav Klimt gave Alma her first kiss. Gustav Mahler fell in love with her at first sight and proposed only a few weeks later. Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius abandoned all reason to pursue her. Poet and novelist Franz Werfel described her as “one of the very few magical women that exist.” But who was this woman who brought these most eminent of men to their knees? In Ecstasy, Mary Sharratt finally gives one of the most controversial and complex women of her time center stage.
Coming of age in the midst of a creative and cultural whirlwind, young, beautiful Alma Schindler yearns to make her mark as a composer. A brand new era of possibility for women is dawning and she is determined to make the most of it. But Alma loses her heart to the great composer Gustav Mahler, nearly twenty years her senior. He demands that she give up her music as a condition for their marriage. Torn by her love and in awe of his genius, how will she remain true to herself and her artistic passion?
Part cautionary tale, part triumph of the feminist spirit, Ecstasy reveals the true Alma Mahler: composer, daughter, sister, mother, wife, lover, and muse.
About the Author:
MARY SHARRATT is an American writer who has lived in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, for the past seven years. The author of the critically acclaimed novels Summit Avenue, The Real Minerva, and The Vanishing Point, Sharratt is also the co-editor of the subversive fiction anthology Bitch Lit, a celebration of female antiheroes, strong women who break all the rules.
Her novels include Summit Avenue, The Real Minera, The Vanishing Point, The Daughters of Witching Hill, Illuminations, and The Dark Lady’s Mask.
I jumped on reading this book because of the author before I knew anything at all about the book. I’ve read several of Ms. Sharratt’s books and enjoyed them so I was excited at the prospect of a new one. When it arrived and I read the synopsis I was intrigued. I will admit to knowing nothing about Alma Schindler Mahler and very little about her husband, Gustav. So I will admit that I did some googling and I listened to both of their compositions while I read the book. I felt that was appropriate background music.
This IS Alma’s story but Gustav plays an out sized role in her life an in the novel. He almost sucks the life out of her. I have to admit that he really annoyed me – but I suppose anyone with a great talent will be temperamental and a bit crazed at given times. Add that to the way women were treated at this period in time and it’s a recipe for a talented woman to lose herself in doing the expected. For that is what Alma fought against; she was a woman with many passions and her personality did not fit the model for the perfect little woman of her day. She felt she had two paths; marry and have children or be a spinster, pursue her music and be one of the dreaded “third sex.” A woman who is trying to be a man.
Alma was a great beauty in her day and she had no dearth of suitors but she wanted love and passion. Her mother who lived a less than secure life wanted security for her even at the cost of love. Alma, at least in this tale seemed to fall in love with any man that was totally unsuitable for her. Even Mahler while acceptable was not financially stable.
Ms. Sharratt develops her Alma in a way you would expect a sheltered teenager to behave. The character is a mass of contradictions and at times very unlikable. But she is a strong woman who believes in her talent until told by a man that she doesn’t have any. Like so many women before her and after her she learns her own self and comes out stronger for it. Whether she comes out wiser. well you will have to decide.
The book is a delight to read, full of passion and pain, love, hate and joy. Ms. Sharratt brings Vienna from the turn of the 20th century alive. The good and the bad. I read the book over the course of a day. It grabbed me and just wouldn’t let me go. I also learned that I enjoy Gustav Mahler’s music very much.
There is a tour wide giveaway for a paperback copy of Ecstasy.
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on May 18th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
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– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
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