Ecstasy
In the glittering hotbed of turn-of-the-twentieth-century Vienna, one woman’s life would define and defy an era Gustav Klimt gave Alma her first kiss. Gustav Mahler fell in love with her at first sight and proposed only a few weeks later. Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius abandoned all reason to pursue her. Poet and novelist Franz Werfel described her as “one of the very few magical women that exist.” But who was this woman who brought these most eminent of men to their knees? In Ecstasy, Mary Sharratt finally gives one of the most controversial and complex women of her time the center stage. Coming of age in the midst of a creative and cultural whirlwind, young, beautiful Alma Schindler yearns to make her mark as a composer. A brand-new era of possibility for women is dawning and she is determined to make the most of it. But Alma loses her heart to the great composer Gustav Mahler, nearly twenty years her senior. He demands that she give up her music as a condition for their marriage. Torn by her love and in awe of his genius, how will she remain true to herself and her artistic passion?Part cautionary tale, part triumph of the feminist spirit, Ecstasy reveals the true Alma Mahler: composer, author, daughter, sister, mother, wife, lover, and muse.

Ecstasy Details

TitleEcstasy
Author
ReleaseApr 10th, 2018
PublisherHoughton Mifflin Harcourt
ISBN-139780544800892
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, Art, Music, Did Not Finish, Adult, Feminism, Art History, Romance

Ecstasy Review

  • Elyse
    January 1, 1970
    “Let’s raise our glasses to Alma Maria Schindler, Fran Zuckerandl said, who has turned the rest of us poor women emerald with envy. Not only is she the most beautiful girl in Vienna, and that’s quite bad enough, she’s also a brilliant pianist. That’s infuriating. But on top of it all, she composes!”Alma’s mother was pregnant with Alma ‘before’ she married her famous painter father, Jakob Schindler. She tells Alma that she ‘had’ to get married. Alma was in love with a man named Alex Zeminsky - a “Let’s raise our glasses to Alma Maria Schindler, Fran Zuckerandl said, who has turned the rest of us poor women emerald with envy. Not only is she the most beautiful girl in Vienna, and that’s quite bad enough, she’s also a brilliant pianist. That’s infuriating. But on top of it all, she composes!”Alma’s mother was pregnant with Alma ‘before’ she married her famous painter father, Jakob Schindler. She tells Alma that she ‘had’ to get married. Alma was in love with a man named Alex Zeminsky - a poor man. Alma’s mother literally forbid her daughter to choose her own husband.....she did everything she could to stop the romance between she and Alex. Her mother told Alma about her childhood of poverty, and the financial struggles during the early years of marriage to her father. Alma ‘was’ conflicted. The pressure of how Alma should live her live was constant. Mother had two wishes for Alma: 1- that she didn’t marry for money without love 2- that she didn’t marry for love without money. Alma had two wishes for herself:1- that she didn’t have to sacrifice her art for Love2- that she didn’t have to sacrifice love for for art. Alma wanted to give herself completely to a man and she wanted to give yourself completely to music. She wished to be a composer - of the great symphonies. She had the talent and practiced diligently. At age 19, when Alma received her first kiss by Gustav Klimt- it was so passionate- physically- and soulfully - (the author did a lovely job conveying this young girls ‘awakening’ experience of lust & passion)....that Alma knew that to deny herself a life without love would be as painful as to deny herself with music ( which was already her lustful passion). Having ‘both’ - love and her independence to follow her dreams - as a female in the 19th/20th century, was a complicated matter. The man she married - Gustav Mahler- wanted her to regard his music, be his wife, but not his colleague. He didn’t want Alma to be a composer because he was one.Alma knew if she married him, and carried on composing behind his back, it would still destroy her creative spirit. Alma’s final thinking - before marrying Mahler.... was is that the only way there was any hope of distinguishing herself and doing anything remarkable at all in life was to marry a great man and share his destiny. I WANTED TO DIE AT THIS MOMENT in the novel....scream at Alma. I saw her spirit breaking - understood her thinking -but was sad. Much more storytelling to come — and tensions keep building. The book is about 400 pages - but reading flies by. I knew next to nothing about Alma Mahler and her excruciating battles of the times both from society & those closest to her. I learned a lot and enjoyed the journey. I absolutely loved reading this historical novel. I was transported back to this period. There’s interesting history, personal storytelling, drama, passion, Love, conflicts, and the music. Just delightful! Thank You to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Netgalley, and Mary Sharratt
    more
  • Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede
    January 1, 1970
    First 5-star book of the year! Brilliant book, top-notch writing and such a moving story! Full review to come!
  • Amy Bruno
    January 1, 1970
    Author Mary Sharratt on Blog Tour for ECSTASY, April 10-May 18!
  • Kris Waldherr
    January 1, 1970
    Read an advance copy of this and loved it. I've been fascinated with Alma Mahler every since I first learned of her life years ago—ECSTASY captures the romantic intensity of Alma's life. Bittersweet and compelling. More to come closer to publication.
    more
  • Adrienne McDonnell
    January 1, 1970
    It's hard to imagine a more glorious subject for a biographical novel than the passionate and spirited composer Alma Mahler. Since receiving an Advanced Reader Copy, I've been engrossed and mesmerized by Alma's story, reading it in the wee hours of the night. What a character, what a life, and what a book Mary Sharratt has created!
    more
  • Ylenia
    January 1, 1970
    Dnf @ 26%Unfortunately this was too heavy on the romance for me to enjoy it. I can’t stand to read about talented women who only talk about men, men, men. I understand Alma was young and maybe a bit naive but she had like 5 possible love interests in the first 25% of this book. Maybe calm down? She just ended up looking confused and unsure of herself as an artist.
    more
  • Michaela
    January 1, 1970
    ---- Disclosure: I received this book for free from Goodreads. ---- Well, the cover isn't bad, & the prelude was good. Struggled to get through the 1st chapter. Unconsciously started hard skimming the thing somewhere after the middle of the 2nd chapter, & gave up during the 3rd chapter. I set it down after the 1st chapter hoping it would be better when I came back to it, but obviously that didn't pan out. I hate the protagonist. The writing was unclear & tedious. I also didn't real ---- Disclosure: I received this book for free from Goodreads. ---- Well, the cover isn't bad, & the prelude was good. Struggled to get through the 1st chapter. Unconsciously started hard skimming the thing somewhere after the middle of the 2nd chapter, & gave up during the 3rd chapter. I set it down after the 1st chapter hoping it would be better when I came back to it, but obviously that didn't pan out. I hate the protagonist. The writing was unclear & tedious. I also didn't realize I had opened a wordier version of a Harlequin romance. I've no idea where all those stellar reviews are coming from, but this wasn't anything like the blurb led me to expect. Shame, b/c the women associated w/ the great men were usually great in their own right, but have been left over-looked & uncredited. I'd hoped stories like I thought this was going to be would correct some of that, & maybe some of them will, but unfortunately this book is not one of those stories......especially if I can't even manage to get through the reading of the thing. It's too bad, but this was a fail.
    more
  • Dgordon
    January 1, 1970
    A fascinating look at the life of Alma Mahler née Schindler, married to Gustav Mahler, Walter Gropius and Franz Werfel, all three creative geniuses. Who was Alma? A daughter, sister, mother, wife, lover, composer, femme fatale, muse? Certainly a complex woman ahead of her time who defied convention to find her own voice.
    more
  • Anya Leonard
    January 1, 1970
    “Don’t you know that another person can also be a paradise?” Our protagonist Alma asks us in reference to her relationships with men. This book relates the story of Alma Maria Schindler-Mahler, admired by Gustav Klimt and Gustav Mahler. She is a strong female lead in an era of not very strong female characters. I greatly enjoyed the insight into the mind of a working composer and could tell that this novel was very closely researched in depth. The descriptions were rich and transporting, and as “Don’t you know that another person can also be a paradise?” Our protagonist Alma asks us in reference to her relationships with men. This book relates the story of Alma Maria Schindler-Mahler, admired by Gustav Klimt and Gustav Mahler. She is a strong female lead in an era of not very strong female characters. I greatly enjoyed the insight into the mind of a working composer and could tell that this novel was very closely researched in depth. The descriptions were rich and transporting, and as in many of her books previously, Sharratt leads us to a place rife with imagery and color. I found myself googling reform dresses and the art of Klimt as well as listening to Mahler's symphonies while reading. I was not familiar with Schindler's work before, having only hear some Mahler and seen the work of Klimt, but I was glad that this book brought a focus to a wonderful composer that I would never have been familiar with otherwise. A truly enchanting book for a wonderful story. This book was provided in exchange for an honest review.
    more
  • Kate Eminhizer
    January 1, 1970
    I received an advanced reading copy of this title via NetGalley for an honest review.This novel oozes with passion. Passion for music, life and love. The author provides us with a glimpse of society life in Vienna and the dreams and expectations of those living it. I cannot remember reading a book that so successfully exhibited the emotional turmoil in a character. As the novel progresses, there was a distinct shift in Alma's personality once she made the decisions that would define her life. Al I received an advanced reading copy of this title via NetGalley for an honest review.This novel oozes with passion. Passion for music, life and love. The author provides us with a glimpse of society life in Vienna and the dreams and expectations of those living it. I cannot remember reading a book that so successfully exhibited the emotional turmoil in a character. As the novel progresses, there was a distinct shift in Alma's personality once she made the decisions that would define her life. Alma's music made her whole and only physical passion provided her with that same level of completeness. It was somewhat tormenting to read the struggles of Alma as she tried to balance the loves of her life while attempting to comply with society's expectations. I didn't want it to end.
    more
  • Emma
    January 1, 1970
    At the outset, Ecstasy showed a lot of promise. I was intrigued by the tale of a young, ambitious woman wanting to do away with the expectations placed upon her and follow her passion. Having studied the work of Gustav Klimt, and in the process become somewhat familiar with his contemporaries in the art world, I was eager to dive into the time period and learn more.Unfortunately the tale of Alma Mahler (nee Schindler) was anything but atypical. She succumbed to the pressures of her position and At the outset, Ecstasy showed a lot of promise. I was intrigued by the tale of a young, ambitious woman wanting to do away with the expectations placed upon her and follow her passion. Having studied the work of Gustav Klimt, and in the process become somewhat familiar with his contemporaries in the art world, I was eager to dive into the time period and learn more.Unfortunately the tale of Alma Mahler (nee Schindler) was anything but atypical. She succumbed to the pressures of her position and married wisely only to mourn the loss of what could have been time and time again. The book had a repetitive quality as Alma circled back to the same conclusions every 30 pages. While I recognize that the book followed Alma’s own diary entries, this book could have been improved with some heavy editing and about 100 fewer pages.All in all, Mary Sharratt did an excellent job capturing the spirit of Alma Mahler. She showed a complex, torn, independent, and strained woman living in an era that didn’t allow her the freedoms men of her generation benefited from. The writing style suited the time and the characters and was all around enjoyable to take in.
    more
  • Stephanie (Bookfever. ♥)
    January 1, 1970
    Phenomenal!
  • Dani
    January 1, 1970
    I love a good book about a strong woman, especially ones from history. Alma was a very interesting woman to read about, but I felt at times that the author could have done more to illuminate her inner life. I was still fascinated and definitely went on to look her up for even more information about her.
    more
  • Devon
    January 1, 1970
    A very interesting and engaging read about Alma Mahler's relationship with her craft and artistic men around her. I really enjoyed much of the feminist undertones of this work.Hopefully, I will remember to publish my in-depth review closer to the publication date in April
    more
  • Linda Zagon
    January 1, 1970
    My Review of “Ecstasy” by Mary SharrattI loved everything about the Historical Fiction novel “Ecstasy” by Mary Sharratt. The timeline for this story is the turn of the century, when the various forms of the arts show changes. The story goes to the past and to the future when it pertains to the characters or events. The story takes place in Vienna, Austria, Europe, and and New YorkMary Sharratt describes her characters as complicated and complex. Many are talented and artistic in many ways. This My Review of “Ecstasy” by Mary SharrattI loved everything about the Historical Fiction novel “Ecstasy” by Mary Sharratt. The timeline for this story is the turn of the century, when the various forms of the arts show changes. The story goes to the past and to the future when it pertains to the characters or events. The story takes place in Vienna, Austria, Europe, and and New YorkMary Sharratt describes her characters as complicated and complex. Many are talented and artistic in many ways. This is a time where passion can be seen in art, music, theater, opera and dance. There are a few courageous and brave women that are able to break through in the male dominated arts.Alma Schindler has been brought up in a talented household. Her father was a famous painter, her stepfather is also an artist, and her mother was an opera singer. From an early childhood, Alma has played the piano. Her passion for composing music shows as she enters young adulthood. Alma turns many heads when she goes to the Opera house. Unfortunately, it is a time where a young woman is supposed to get married and have responsibilities with her family. Alma wants so much more. She wants to learn more about rhythm, counterpoint and wants to compose an opera.Although Alma wants to compose, she also wants to love and be loved. How can Alma share her compassion for anything but music? Alma is impressed by Gustav Mahler, and soon becomes his wife. Gustav Mahler has made it clear, there is no place for Alma’s composing in their life together.I appreciate the way that the author describes the feminist spirit in her writing. She also writes about the balance of being a wife, mother, sister, daughter, and a composer. I would recommend this story for readers of Historical Fiction. I received an ARC for my honest review.
    more
  • Heather
    January 1, 1970
    I received this book from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.Alma Mahler was a very interesting woman. She was ambitious in a time and place that did not reward that in upper class white women.  She wanted to be a composer but was told that she couldn't if she wanted to marry the man she wanted.This book does a good job of highlighting the mental cost of requiring a woman to be a wife and mother if that is not their desire. Her depression and their martial troubles in the face of his refusal I received this book from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.Alma Mahler was a very interesting woman. She was ambitious in a time and place that did not reward that in upper class white women.  She wanted to be a composer but was told that she couldn't if she wanted to marry the man she wanted.This book does a good job of highlighting the mental cost of requiring a woman to be a wife and mother if that is not their desire. Her depression and their martial troubles in the face of his refusal to see her as a creative human being was well written.I wish this book had pulled me deeper into the story emotionally.  Great historical fiction should immerse you in the time and place.  It should take a little effort to get your focus out of that world when you put the book aside. This reading experience felt very surface level which is a shame. Early 20th century Vienna and the artistic world there could be a very lush setting for a novel.I enjoyed learning about this woman that I had not previous been aware of.This review was originally posted on Based On A True Story
    more
  • Valeria Vescina
    January 1, 1970
    In "Ecstasy", historical novelist Mary Sharratt charts the life of Alma Schindler Mahler from 1899 to 1911: the naïve and impulsive nineteen-year old who at the start of the book receives her first kiss from Gustav Klimt is, in its final pages, mourning the death of her husband Gustav Mahler. The succession of events in the intervening pages is so extraordinary that it would stretch credibility, were it not based on true facts. Sharratt draws on Alma’s journals, on Gustav Mahler’s letters, on bi In "Ecstasy", historical novelist Mary Sharratt charts the life of Alma Schindler Mahler from 1899 to 1911: the naïve and impulsive nineteen-year old who at the start of the book receives her first kiss from Gustav Klimt is, in its final pages, mourning the death of her husband Gustav Mahler. The succession of events in the intervening pages is so extraordinary that it would stretch credibility, were it not based on true facts. Sharratt draws on Alma’s journals, on Gustav Mahler’s letters, on biographies, essays and exhibitions about her subject and era, to give us well-researched characters and places, and to move the reader with an intimate account of the heart-wrenching tragedies in their lives. She also depicts clearly the pressures on Alma, first by her parents and then by her husband Gustav Mahler (who, belatedly, relented), to abandon her ambitions to compose. Today, fewer than twenty of Alma Mahler’s songs for piano and voice survive. The couple’s personalities and relationship with each other were very complex, and Sharratt makes this evident. Style-wise, the text could be edited further to eliminate some overwriting – however, this comment refers to an advance uncorrected proof, and does not detract from "Ecstasy" being an engaging read.
    more
  • ABCme
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the ARC.Meet Alma Maria Schindler, on the verge of womanhood, desperate to make a life for herself. A bohemian soul in a bourgeois almost all-male society. She has a dream, but no plan, yet somehow the stars align and she meets the men who could make it happen. First Klimt, then Zemlinsky, then Mahler. She makes her choice, and marries Mahler, which almost destroys her. Throughout this marvel of a book I had a hard time liking the man, not ev Thank you Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the ARC.Meet Alma Maria Schindler, on the verge of womanhood, desperate to make a life for herself. A bohemian soul in a bourgeois almost all-male society. She has a dream, but no plan, yet somehow the stars align and she meets the men who could make it happen. First Klimt, then Zemlinsky, then Mahler. She makes her choice, and marries Mahler, which almost destroys her. Throughout this marvel of a book I had a hard time liking the man, not even after he admitted his wrongs. Luckily, it all works out in the end and through waves of emotion Alma becomes her own woman.I enjoyed the writer's notes attached, giving more insight in Alma's life after this story. A strong woman indeed. If there's one book everyone should read in 2018 it's Ecstasy. Exquisite writing, interesting subject, history lesson. A true gem!
    more
  • Natalie Morgan
    January 1, 1970
    I really liked this book! I am rather new to Historical Fiction, but this book captured and kept my attention! I went in knowing next to nothing about Alma Mahler, thanks to this book I have independently researched the Mahlers. It made me want to go to the symphony! I highly recommend this book. I read this book before release thanks to the publisher and NetGalley
    more
  • Mithila Menezes
    January 1, 1970
    The book 'Ecstasy' by Mary Sharratt is a historical fiction book set on the life of Alma Maria Schindler, a brilliant Viennese-born composer.This book captures the essence of Alma Schindler, a larger-than-life woman whom we can only look up to in this day and age. The author of this book wove a brilliant story of love, passion, music and the society of Vienna only by referring to the Diaries of Alma Mahler-Werfel, and the collection of letters that Gustav Mahler wrote to his wife. And indeed, th The book 'Ecstasy' by Mary Sharratt is a historical fiction book set on the life of Alma Maria Schindler, a brilliant Viennese-born composer.This book captures the essence of Alma Schindler, a larger-than-life woman whom we can only look up to in this day and age. The author of this book wove a brilliant story of love, passion, music and the society of Vienna only by referring to the Diaries of Alma Mahler-Werfel, and the collection of letters that Gustav Mahler wrote to his wife. And indeed, this book is filled with references to Gustav's loving letters to his wife while he organised concerts and symphonies abroad, or while Alma recuperated at the sanatorium at different stages in her life. Ecstasy is written in a third person POV, but at times it felt like I was sitting in Alma's mind. I felt enraged when Alma felt enraged, loved when Alma felt loved and distraught when Alma felt distraught. The empathetic connection that the reader will have upon reading this book is a mesmerising affair. The struggles of being a woman in the 19th/20th century are described in excruciating detail. Alma wished to pursue her dreams of being a composer of world-renowned symphonies, and laboured at the piano everyday to achieve her dreams. Her eyes lit up when she saw other girls her age achieve brilliant success in their own fields of art. She was a regular attendee at concerts at the Court Opera. The symphonies performed at those concerts took her to the highest level of nirvana possible. Her whirlwind romance with Alex Zemlinsky was one part of the book I adored. I was torn apart when Alma had to make a choice between Zemlinsky and Mahler. Because the choice was not only restricted to the people involved. Alma also had to choose between: continuing her studies in the field of composing or giving it up; falling in love with a poor man or a rich man; going against her parents' wishes or accepting them meekly; listening to her heart or listening to her heart, because she loved both of them so dearly. A 5/5 star read indeed. And a brilliant book that every musician, composer and anyone who dabbles in the art of music can enjoy. It offers a perspective about how music and the experience of listening to music has evolved over the centuries. And yet, music as a medium of self-expression and innovation has remained constant over the centuries.
    more
  • Linda
    January 1, 1970
    Really loved this! And not just because I know Mary Sharratt.But what she has done here is very... musical. I am not very knowledgeable about music, especially classical music. I barely know who Mahler is. But I can sense a tempo building when it's being done. And I love the way she has taken the life of Alma Mahler and built it up to a crescendo until you just absolutely can't put the book down and suddenly the big kettle drums are rolling and the cannon goes off, and... wait, that's the Willia Really loved this! And not just because I know Mary Sharratt.But what she has done here is very... musical. I am not very knowledgeable about music, especially classical music. I barely know who Mahler is. But I can sense a tempo building when it's being done. And I love the way she has taken the life of Alma Mahler and built it up to a crescendo until you just absolutely can't put the book down and suddenly the big kettle drums are rolling and the cannon goes off, and... wait, that's the William Tell Overture, isn't it? But that is what this felt like.The last 100 pages are just riveting. I admit, this started a little more slowly than some of Mary's earlier books, and I had to really work my way through Alma's early life, when she seemed SO flighty. And then, she woke up. And she was on fire! And it was then that I really began to root for her.But there were many other things going on here, too. The Eve/Lilith analogy worked very well, I thought."Men make the rules and we break them so we don't go mad."There were many details in this story about the reality of a woman's life in this time and place. I especially loved how Alma was shocked to find the way that women lived in America as compared to Vienna. Of course, it wasn't really that different, as the laws were still against them, but it seems that she made some good acquaintances and had some great influences here.I would love to have the second half of her life - the part where she perhaps earned a reputation as someone who was footloose and fancy free. I realize that most of the book was based on her early diaries, and it is difficult to know what was lost in the war or destroyed, but I would love to see that play out.Overall, another triumph for Mary Sharratt, who writes women on fire better than anyone I know!
    more
  • Aria
    January 1, 1970
    I got this last night from a fellow Goodreads member. Apparently she'd just set it down for the final time before I arrived. Noting the interesting cover I asked how it was & she just said, "It's a no." I laughed & she said she was going to toss it unless I wanted to have a go at it, so of course I took the book home. After reading the back blurb I realized I'd also signed up to win it on Goodreads, but had not been chosen to receive a copy. Just as well, b/c then there'd have been two c I got this last night from a fellow Goodreads member. Apparently she'd just set it down for the final time before I arrived. Noting the interesting cover I asked how it was & she just said, "It's a no." I laughed & she said she was going to toss it unless I wanted to have a go at it, so of course I took the book home. After reading the back blurb I realized I'd also signed up to win it on Goodreads, but had not been chosen to receive a copy. Just as well, b/c then there'd have been two copies being tossed in the recycling bin. I didn't make it as far as my friend did, probably b/c she felt committed to push harder into it before giving up since she had won the free copy for review. As for me, I'll just say, "ditto," to her assessment of the book. I mean, I both opened it & closed it for both the first & last times in under an hour, so obviously it wasn't working for me. (Michaela's review is the one I am seconding.)
    more
  • Ampersand Inc.
    January 1, 1970
    I love a good book about a strong woman, especially ones from history. Alma was a very interesting woman to read about, but I felt at times that the author could have done more to illuminate her inner life. I was still fascinated and definitely went on to look her up for even more information about her.
    more
  • Kristen McDermott
    January 1, 1970
    My review of this book will appear in Historical Novels Review 84 (May 2018).
Write a review