Passionate Spirit: The Life of Alma Mahler

Cate Haste. Basic, $32 (368p) ISBN 978-0-465-09671-8
In this sympathetic, engrossing biography of Viennese socialite and composer Alma Mahler (1879–1964), Haste (Sheila Fell: A Passion for Paint) traces Mahler’s struggle to find equilibrium among her men (all creative geniuses), her erotic desires, and her own musical ambition. Haste mines Mahler’s diaries and memoirs, and interviews her granddaughter to uncover her complexities and contradictions (she had many close Jewish friends, but nevertheless spouted anti-Semitic remarks). Ever excited by brilliant minds, Mahler married three men; each relationship began as an affair: composer Gustav Mahler; architect Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus movement; and the bestselling Jewish novelist and poet Franz Werfel (whom she escorted over the Pyrenees mountains by foot and across the Atlantic by ship to protect him from Nazi persecution). One lover—the eccentric artist Oskar Kokoschka, who “satisfied her yearning to be loved and worshipped”—commissioned a life-size Alma doll to dote on after their split. Mahler hosted legendary salons throughout Europe and the U.S., as Haste enthusiastically details (“What drives me around the world—like a flame in too much wind. I am forever yearning!”), but also suffered hardship (three of her four children died tragically). Haste beautifully reprises the life of this force of nature. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 04/26/2019
Release date: 09/10/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
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