Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Love and Death in Vienna: The Story of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria & Baroness Mary Vetsera by Bunny Paine-Clemes

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Library
Read: January 30, 2013

He's been her obsession throughout her young life. Yet to seventeen year old Marie Vetsera, he is more than that - he is her destiny. But Crown Prince Rudolf of Austro-Hungary - heir to the throne, a man of the world, much older than Marie and disease-ravaged from his indiscriminate liaisons - moves in the upper circles of society to which she, of minor aristocracy, can barely aspire. Through sheer stubbornness, however - and maybe a touch of the spoiled child who has always got everything she wanted - the girl succeeds in making a fateful meeting with him happen; an encounter that leads to a passionate, not-so-secret affair, one marked, on her side at least, by total adoration. But all is not right in his world. There is a darker side to Rudolf's life, in which he ultimately sees only one way out. Is is the only way that will ensure the lovers can be together forever. By love united until death.

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Marie Vetsera
On Jan. 30, 1889, valet Johann Loschek discovered the bodies of Crown Prince Rudolf and his seventeen year old mistress, Baroness Marie Vetsera. Each had suffered a gun shot wound to the head. To this day mystery surrounds what has become known as the Maryerling Incident as no satisfying explanation has ever been confirmed. The fact that I timed my reading of Bunny Paine-Clemes' Love and Death in Vienna to coincide with the anniversary of Rudolf and Vetsera's deaths might be a clue as to how I feel about the story. I only wish I were as enthusiastic about the book as I am the event that inspired it.

For me, this one started downhill from page one. I'm sorry, but I cannot believe Marie began an intense all-consuming obsession with Rudolf at the tender age of six. I am prepared to believe that much like William and Harry, Rudolf had his legion of female followers, but a six year old is simply going too far.  Even as an adult character Marie bothered me. She has an entirely one track mind and exhibits no actual growth in the course of the book. She is wholly and completely infatuated with Rudolf from page one to page two hundred and six. She is something of a one-trick pony: tiresome, dull and all told, rather boring.

I'm not sure anyone unfamiliar with the history would notice, but for someone like me the author's inability to integrate fact into fiction is glaringly obvious. Facts are embedded rather than integrated into the story. They hit the reader systematically,
 almost as if one were looking over a series of bullet points. Ideally I would have liked to see fact and fiction blended together as one, but that is not what I found here. 

The nail in the coffin however came back to show, don't tell. Love and Death in Vienna had no emotional power, nothing that drew me in or blew me away. To be entirely honest this is the kind of writing I expect from nonfiction writers - straightforward, shallow and flat. 

Not something I would recommend, especially against alternatives like The Time of Murder at Mayerling.

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She had been born to make this decision. She had written to her governess Hermione as the affair began, long before he himself had proposed the pact, 'I am ready to die for him.'
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