cover image Madensky Square

Madensky Square

Eva Ibbotson. St. Martin's Press, $0 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-312-02246-4

Set in Imperial Vienna in 1911, this novel by the author of A Company of Swans mingles humor and poignancy. Susanna, a fashionable dress-maker whose salon is in quiet Madensky Square, decides on the first spring day to keep a journalto which the reader is privy. The diary records Susanna's concerns, hopes and memories, her succinct, witty and sometimes scathing opinions of her neighbors, customers and rivals, and her generous charity toward those she loves. Susanna's story is not unusual: eloping with a soldier in her teens, she bore a daughter whom she gave up for adoption, an act that is the tragedy of her life. She is the secret mistress of an aristocratic field marshal who, when Madensky Square and Susanna's salon are threatened by city planners, manages to avert the disaster. When a young Polish piano prodigy languishes in neglect, Susanna manipulates the coup that makes Sigi the sweetheart of Europe. This refreshing novel in which the heroine overcomes hardship, sticks to her ideals and is satisfied with what happiness life brings her is carried off without sticky sentimentality, Machiavellian wickedness or salacious sex scenes. (October)