Ecstasy

Mary Sharratt. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26 (400p) ISBN 978-0-544-80089-2
Both during her life and after, Viennese artist Alma Schindler Mahler Gropius Werfel (1879-1964) received countless love letters; Sharratt’s passionate and occasionally overwrought novel is another, one notable for its focus on Alma’s artistic talent and early feminism as well as her beauty. Sharratt (The Dark Lady’s Mask) specializes in dramatizing the lives of women underestimated or overlooked by history, and, though Alma may not seem to fit that model, Sharratt shows her as trapped by a sexist and hypocritical society in which only men were allowed to be artists or have sexual freedom. In Sharratt’s account, Alma grows from a musical girl awakened by a kiss from the artist Gustav Klimt to the young woman astonished by professions of love from Gustav Mahler, nearly 20 years her senior and perhaps the most famous musician in music-obsessed Vienna. The novel continues on to Alma’s growing resentment at having to tailor her life to Mahler’s demands. Despite occasional overwriting (in response to one of Mahler’s declarations of love, “a light blazed inside her, her heart beating like the wings of a thousand white doves”), this winning historical novel offers an enjoyable portrait of an ambitious woman whose struggles are as relevant today as they were a century ago. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/26/2018
Release date: 04/10/2018
Genre: Fiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-5200-6373-7
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