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Elisabeth, known as Sisi, enjoyed a carefree lifestyle in the hills of Bavaria until she was chosen by Franz Josef to be his wife. At the age of sixteen she became Empress of Austria and moved into the imperial palaces of Vienna, where a hostile court disdained her for her low birth, and strict protocol ruled her every act. She had no other purpose than to adorn the emperor's arm on ceremonial occasions and to make babies who were taken from her at birth to be raised by her domineering mother-in-law. Of too sensitive a spirit, and dazzlingly beautiful, she was often ill and anorexic. Twice she had to flee the court to distant places in order to heal. She struggled to find a place for herself in this alien environment until she found a cause into which she could pour her heart and soul: Hungary. Like Sisi herself, Hungary struggled to find a place for itself where it would not be subsumed by a soulless empire. Having found her salvation, she also found a man she could love in the great patriot, Count Andrassy.
Writing in a genre that often leans towards the predictable, Appleyard clearly has a passion for historical accuracy as she nimbly weaves fact and fiction into a lively, literary tapestry. With a plot that doesn't stray far from the conventions of historical novels about royalty, you might think there could be little more to say on the subject of Austria’s fairy-tale Empress. Yet Appleyard finds a way to approach the harrowing and more elusive events in Sisi’s life from a refreshingly original perspective. A compelling character, to which many readers have been drawn over the years, Appleyard brings her world to life with beautifully written prose and vivid descriptions that prove wholly captivating. Taking us behind the gilded façade, with its rich period detail, to reveal a kind, shrewd and idealistic romantic trying to find her place in the world. In doing so, Appleyard breathes fresh, urgent life into a story told countless times over. A story that resonates with intimacy to deliver a powerful and superior historical novel.
Masterful prose and a wholly prevailing sense of authenticity make In A Gilded Cage a must read and a notable addition to an ever popular genre. It is recommended without reservation.
Powerful and riveting Shawver’s Holocaust biography casts a haunting and uninterrupted spell over her readers as she takes them on a harrowing journey into the darkest moments of the last century. A time and place that will forever be engrained in the annals of history it’s flawlessly written with a timely clarity which proves wholly enthralling throughout but as with any biography of note, it’s the subject we are first and foremost drawn to. With lucid and acerbic prose Shawver gives voice to Henry Zguda’s innermost thoughts and memories and the result proves quite remarkable.