Sunday, September 1, 2013

Recent Read: A Nervous Splendor: Vienna 1888/1889 by Frederic Morton

At a friend's recommendation I borrowed  A Nervous Splendor: Vienna 1888/1889 from the library to read after returning from vacation. It's not one I likely would have been very interested in were it not for the fact that I've just visited Vienna and seen some of the places mentioned in the book. While the author does a great job of showing what all was going on in Vienna during a short period of time and it was fascinating to note all the interesting and historically significant people all in this city all at the same time, the writing is a little dry in places and difficult to muddle through. There were places I just needed to skim to get through, which doesn't happen very often. I was very glad though to get some extra historical context to go along with what I heard and saw on the visit.

The hunting lodge, Mayerling.

One day we took a bus tour of the nearby Vienna Woods, a rural area with protected land, some small towns and farms, kind of like the national parks we have in the States. We stopped briefly outside Mayerling, a small town with what today is an abbey but during the time frame in the book was the hunting lodge for Austria's Crown Prince Rudolf. The lodge was the location of Rudolf's suicide and his 17 year-old mistress' murder while Rudolf's wife was away. It was a scandalous, mysterious event.

I wanted to read the book to learn more about their relationship and the murder-suicide. Of the 30 chapters in the book, however, Morton really only dedicated about two chapters completely to Rudolf and Mary Vetsera's relationship and infatuation with each other, so that wasn't quite what I expected. The book did provide me with a few nuggets of good information and in parts was a good complement to the recent vacation.

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