Siria's Reviews > The Lonely Empress: Elizabeth of Austria

The Lonely Empress by Joan Haslip
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Jun 04, 2007

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bookshelves: biography, nonfiction, austrian-history
Read in July, 2006

This biography is now over forty years old, but Haslip's writing, and the common sense approach which she takes towards her subject means that it is still as readable now as it was when it was first printed. Haslip is extremely good at taking an insightful and sympathetic, yet objective and critical, approach towards her subject, Elizabeth of Austria, the woman better known to history as Princess Sisi. Elizabeth was a complicated mixture of charm and frigidity, intelligence and neurosis, self-conscious beauty and shyness, and I think Haslip does a very good job at capturing those. I would agree with her assessment of Elizabeth's character to a large degree.

The book has its faults, though they are minor. I would have liked a greater deal of analysis of her legacy and of the immediate impact of her death; to end the book with her murder makes it seem curiously truncated, especially considering how great a mythos had grown up around Elizabeth even by the time Haslip was writing. It is also curious that she didn't use make more use of those who could remember Elizabeth and her family, and who were still alive at the time of her writing; I think the last of Elizabeth's children had died maybe only twenty to thirty years before; still, it's probable in that case that they had simply closed ranks.

The book could also have used a stronger technical editor; there was one instance where Elizabeth returned to Austria 'for Xmas', which I cannot see as being appropriate for a biographical work, and the number of comma splices was truly astronomical. Despite that, though, this is still probably one of the best books dealing with the life of the empress.
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