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

Ecstasy Review

  • Julie
    January 1, 1970
    Ecstasy by Mary Sharratt is a 2018 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publication. This story is a fictionalized accounting of composer and pianist Alma Schindler’s life during the period she was married to famed composer Gustav Mahler. As a condition of her marriage, Alma promised her husband, she would give up her own music and channel all her passion for music through his compositions and successes, which eventually takes her down the path of depression and melancholy, and into the arms of another ma Ecstasy by Mary Sharratt is a 2018 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publication. This story is a fictionalized accounting of composer and pianist Alma Schindler’s life during the period she was married to famed composer Gustav Mahler. As a condition of her marriage, Alma promised her husband, she would give up her own music and channel all her passion for music through his compositions and successes, which eventually takes her down the path of depression and melancholy, and into the arms of another man. Vienna… It doesn’t seem to matter what kind of story I’m reading- if Vienna is the location- It immediately puts me into an entirely different mood. There is just something so atmospheric about it, so romantic and steeped in incredible history- especially from an artistic standpoint. This book was no exception. I willingly allowed myself to fall dreamily into the angst ridden, highly dramatic, often tragic life of Alma Schindler Gustuv. Alma was a talented composer, someone who swore she would never succumb to traditional married life, always putting her music first- until she fell in love with Gustuv Mahler. This story follows the impulsive Alma as she struggles through her teenage years, where she copes with the way her mother demurs to her new husband, and the addition to their family of a younger brother, as well as her sister’s struggle with mental illness. While Alma's often petulant and selfish, she is also a great romantic and feels things deeply. She falls in and out of love easily enough, but did seem to have a tremendous depth of feeling for Gustuv who was more self -absorbed than Alma ever thought of being. Despite his dismissive attitude towards her, she lives for those periods of great passion between them. It was an amazing journey Alma took, as she suffered from discontent, boredom, and pent up creative power that left her frustrated and badly in need of release. The story and the marriage between Alma and Gustuv reads like a musical composition at times with staccato and legato, diminuendo, and crescendos, Molto and Sempre, melody and harmony. I enjoyed the high drama, I must say. If this had been a strictly fictional book, I may have rolled my eyes at some of the intense emotional turmoil Alma was always on the verge of, thinking it just a little bit too melodramatic or over the top, but since this story is based on true events, it proves that life often is packed with more high -pitched angst than we want to admit. Artists of all forms seem more prone to those fits of agony and mania, but I’ll keep this in mind the next time I become exasperated by an overwrought heroine. I also enjoyed Alma journey back to the place where she was able to take charge of her life and music again, was able to express herself musically and artistically, feeling more fulfilled and more independent, perhaps learning that lesson the hard way. In the end, Alma was more of a trailblazer for women than she is credited with, eventually leaving behind her own musical legacy, despite her continual attraction to men driven by their careers. Many of you, myself included, will want to know more about Alma’s life after reading this book. It is interesting to note, that she often maintained her role as muse, becoming the subject of plays, books, and movies. While there are plenty of resources to choose from, the truth of Alma’s life is often speculative, elusive, and the subject of much debate. This is quick, fascinating read, I found to be quite interesting and very absorbing. 4 stars
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  • 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
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  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
    January 1, 1970
    5 alluring stars to Ecstasy! ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ (Last vacation review, I promise! 😉)In college, I had a poster of Klimt’s painting, The Kiss, hanging on my dorm room wall. It was sultry and magical. My love for art and art history was sparked by my beloved high school art teacher. I think she saw a lack of confidence in me, and in retrospect, I feel she took every opportunity to bring that out. I yearn for books about art as a result, especially in my favorite genre, historical fiction. All of that to sa 5 alluring stars to Ecstasy! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ (Last vacation review, I promise! 😉)In college, I had a poster of Klimt’s painting, The Kiss, hanging on my dorm room wall. It was sultry and magical. My love for art and art history was sparked by my beloved high school art teacher. I think she saw a lack of confidence in me, and in retrospect, I feel she took every opportunity to bring that out. I yearn for books about art as a result, especially in my favorite genre, historical fiction. All of that to say, when I saw Ecstasy’s cover and the synopsis, I knew I had to read this book. Set at the turn of the twentieth century in Vienna, Ecstasy is the story of a most-intriguing woman, Alma Schindler. Daughter of an artist, Alma is not only a brilliant pianist, she is a talented composer. She has the opportunity to seek further training to become a star composer, but her mother would not let her because she was female. Alma’s first kiss was by none other than Gustav Klimt. She later marries Gustav Mahler, a composer, who forbids her music and wants her to be a wife and mother. Married for many years, Alma and Mahler have an up and down marriage, but Mahler is quite obsessed with Alma. She has an affair with Walter Gropius, a famous architect, and later moves on to Franz Werfel, novelist and poet. Schindler has each of these men entranced with her. She is the muse for each and probably the greatest love. Ecstasy is very much about Alma’s coming of age during a time when women had strict expectations, but culturally and creatively, an era of possibility was simultaneously opening up, and Alma fully embraces it. She is a woman ahead of her time, testing the boundaries that try to contain her, jumping over them, and flourishing with possibilities that she creates for herself. Alma Schindler had a full life, and in reading her life’s story, I had to be patient with the details and settle in to this book. When one woman is a composer, an author, a daughter, a mother, a wife, a lover, and a muse for various artists, there is much content to be shared! I found Alma enchanting and energizing, and I wish that more people knew her story.Thank you to Mary Sharratt, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Edelweiss for the ARC. Ecstasy will be released on April 10, 2018.
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  • Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede
    January 1, 1970
    I saw the movie Mahler by Ken Russell a couple of years ago. Well, it's so many years ago that I don't really remember much about it. But, it was my first introduction to Gustav Mahler and his wife Alma. So, when I saw that there would be a book about Alma Mahler was I instantly interested. I was thrilled when I got a copy of this book to read.Just think of what Alma Schindler could have achieved if she was born decades later when a woman could be much more than a wife and a mother. She dreamed I saw the movie Mahler by Ken Russell a couple of years ago. Well, it's so many years ago that I don't really remember much about it. But, it was my first introduction to Gustav Mahler and his wife Alma. So, when I saw that there would be a book about Alma Mahler was I instantly interested. I was thrilled when I got a copy of this book to read.Just think of what Alma Schindler could have achieved if she was born decades later when a woman could be much more than a wife and a mother. She dreamed of becoming a composer, but her mother and stepfather (mostly stepfather) didn't think higher education would be something for her since she was a woman and wasting money on an education for her was nothing he wanted since his opinion was that her role in life getting married and have children. Alma, however, wanted to compose, to be something. Then, Gustav Mahler enters her life, and she falls in love with him. However, he demands that she gives up her music to dedicate her life to their marriage and his needs. And, she does that. She suffocates the part of herself that loves music, but how can she be complete when part of her, the creative part of her has to be subdued? When her life is only to be a wife and mother? It doesn't, and it's just tragic that when they finally find themselves true to each other, Gustav and Alma is time running out for them...This book would have been at least twice as thick (or more) if Mary Sharratt has written about Almas whole life, not just her marriage to Mahler. And, I would have read it. I loved the book from the very start. I loved getting to know Alma Mahler, this extraordinary woman that had such a fantastic life. I loved how Alma finally has come out of the shadows of the famous men she was married to. To show the world that she was a great composer as well.
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  • Cathy
    January 1, 1970
    Read more reviews like this, plus fascinating author interviews, exclusive guest posts and book extracts, on my blog: https://whatcathyreadnext.wordpress.com/Alma is beautiful, passionate and independent-minded, fond of poetry, drama and literature and a talented pianist. She also shows a talent for composition and harbours an ambition to be recognised as a composer of her own music. However, she is prevented from following her dreams by the constraints of society and the expectations placed on Read more reviews like this, plus fascinating author interviews, exclusive guest posts and book extracts, on my blog: https://whatcathyreadnext.wordpress.com/Alma is beautiful, passionate and independent-minded, fond of poetry, drama and literature and a talented pianist. She also shows a talent for composition and harbours an ambition to be recognised as a composer of her own music. However, she is prevented from following her dreams by the constraints of society and the expectations placed on her of marriage and motherhood. It’s a time when women’s talents and achievements are downplayed or, worse, characterised as ‘unfeminine’. Alma’s admiration for composers and artists of the day is reciprocated by, amongst others, Klimt and Zemlinsky. They are attracted by her beauty and her lively conversation. Neither of these are suitable marriage prospects, however, and by the time she is twenty-one, Alma feels in ‘stasis’, unfulfilled and overwhelmed by an awakening sexuality that she is unable to express. Her only solace is in music.Enter Gustav Mahler, the renowned conductor and composer who is as entranced by Alma as she is with his musical talent. However, when his offer of marriage comes it is accompanied by a condition that will mean Alma sacrificing her own ambitions for her husband’s work and career. Despite the age difference, warnings from those close to her and her own misgivings about the bargain she is making, Alma accepts his offer of marriage. Heartbreaking tragedy, illness and separation from friends and family will make Alma’s and Gustav’s marriage at times a tempestuous affair. As Alma’s mother notes: “Love and marriage. It’s so much more complicated than people realize.” I really enjoyed Ecstasy, not least because, in one of those moments of serendipity, I attended a concert of Mahler’s Second Symphony a few nights before starting the book. Described in the programme as ‘monumental’, it’s certainly epic. With the biggest orchestra I’ve ever seen, including some offstage, a symphony chorus and two soloists, the composer throws in pretty much everything but the kitchen sink. However, we didn’t have the five minute pause between the first and second movements that Mahler insisted on for its first performance, which Alma witnesses in the book.There’s something I find fascinating about reading of the lives of women who married famous men, albeit fictionalised accounts, because, in almost all cases, it strikes me they were often just as accomplished, if not more, than the men they married. Yet, like, Alma, they were expected to channel their talents into supporting their husbands, being the perfect hostess and doting mother. Reading Ecstasy made we wonder if great talent, like that of Gustav Mahler, can ever excuse selfishness and the often casual disregard for those around them. This is a book rich in historical detail and I loved the way the author evoked the sights and atmosphere of turn of the century Vienna (a city I have visited and really loved) and its musicians, artists and poets. I also found engaging Alma’s wonder at the sophistication of New York when she and Gustav travel there to pursue his career. As the author notes in her afterword, Alma led a full life even after the events covered in the novel. I can only agree with Mary Sharratt when she writes: ‘The deeper I delved into Alma’s story, the more complex and compelling her character revealed itself to be.’ I received a review copy courtesy of publishers, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in return for an honest and unbiased review.
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  • Amy Bruno
    January 1, 1970
    Author Mary Sharratt on Blog Tour for ECSTASY, April 10-May 18!
  • Audra (Unabridged Chick)
    January 1, 1970
    I knew, from the previous novels of Sharratt's that I've read (the astounding Illuminations and fascinating The Dark Lady's Mask ) that I would love Ecstasy -- even though I feared the story of Alma Mahler's life would frustrate me. However, I should have trusted that Sharratt would somehow manage to make me not just enraptured of/with Alma but also the people in her life, including the frustrating Gustave Mahler.Alma Schindler is beautiful and clever, growing up in Vienna's glittering world I knew, from the previous novels of Sharratt's that I've read (the astounding Illuminations and fascinating The Dark Lady's Mask ) that I would love Ecstasy -- even though I feared the story of Alma Mahler's life would frustrate me. However, I should have trusted that Sharratt would somehow manage to make me not just enraptured of/with Alma but also the people in her life, including the frustrating Gustave Mahler.Alma Schindler is beautiful and clever, growing up in Vienna's glittering world of art and intellect. She composes and wishes to devote herself to music, but aspires to a passionate love as well. She eventually marries Gustave Mahler, a genius who demands she give up her composing and devote her entire self to his art. The cost, unsurprisingly, is enormous.This probably sounds miserable, but Sharratt somehow manages to make it deeply compelling and kind of understandable. In this time of Lean In and #hustle, Alma's frustrated struggle resonated with me; the compromises she made I could appreciate. Sharratt's portrait of Alma is empathetic and sensitive, as are the other figures in Alma's life -- including Mahler.  As with her previous novels, Sharratt's skillful narrative creates sense of place and era in a vibrant but unobtrusive manner. So much of who Alma is comes from her life in late 19th century Vienna and the story combines Alma's inner world and emotional turmoil with a glittering swirl of parties, concerts, and exhausting hikes (thanks to Mahler). I might not have wished to live the life Alma did, but I understood how and why she made the choices she did.Alma is a divisive figure among Mahler fans (there's an "Alma problem", apparently) but I couldn't help but think of the current revelations from Hollywood that many a "difficult" actress was actually a woman who refused unwanted sexual advances. Sharratt offers another so-called "difficult" woman a new narrative, one that I welcome. (And, as Sharratt says in her interview with me, "Alma totally passes the Bechdel test!" which is another welcome narrative: women as inspiration, colleagues, friends, and allies rather than competition.) What if there are no good women or bad women? she asked herself. What if pure and impure, faithful and loose, madonna and whore were simply poisons used to reduce a healthy woman to a gibbering, nerve-sick wreck? Men make the rules and we break them so we don't go mad. (p381)Initial ThoughtsAnother knockout read from Sharratt. This one harder for me than her others: Alma got such a raw deal, however willingly and clear-eyed she went into things. I was strongly reminded of Alice I Have Been for it's lovely -- and maddening -- evocation of a complicated woman and the men controlled and impacted her life.Longer review to come.
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  • 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.
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  • OLT
    January 1, 1970
    Author Mary Sharratt has a mission: " Writing women back into history." In 2012 she focused on 12th-century Benedictine abbess Hildegard of Bingen in ILLUMINATIONS, showing us a woman expected from a young age to submit herself quietly to God but who refused to lose her identity completely and was a composer, herbalist, mathematician and feminist of her times. In 2016 I read THE DARK LADY'S MASK about Aemilia Bassano Lanier, writer and poet, believed to be William Shakespeare's love and an unrec Author Mary Sharratt has a mission: " Writing women back into history." In 2012 she focused on 12th-century Benedictine abbess Hildegard of Bingen in ILLUMINATIONS, showing us a woman expected from a young age to submit herself quietly to God but who refused to lose her identity completely and was a composer, herbalist, mathematician and feminist of her times. In 2016 I read THE DARK LADY'S MASK about Aemilia Bassano Lanier, writer and poet, believed to be William Shakespeare's love and an unrecognized collaborator on several of his plays.Now Sharratt has turned her attention to early-1900s Vienna and Alma Schindler, daughter of famous artist Emil Schindler. Alma is beautiful and musically talented. Men are drawn to her. She received her first kiss from Gustav Klimt. Max Burckhard, Joseph Olbrech, Felix Muhr and others flirted with her, some may have proposed marriage. Alexander von Zemlinsky was one of her musical mentors and her first serious love, whom she might have married if not for two reasons: (1) He was too poor to please her mother, and (2) She met more famous Gustav Mahler and was overwhelmed by him.So somewhat star-struck, Alma chose to marry Mahler, even knowing that he, unlike Zemlinsky, who encouraged her talent, would expect her to have only one profession after marriage: "...to make me happy...You must surrender yourself to me unconditionally." And she does. But from then on we watch Alma suffer and lament her choices. Sharratt has done extensive research to write this story of Alma's unsatisfying, artistically-suppressed life with Mahler. Not only using information from biographies, she has also mined the words of the two main characters themselves in Gustav Mahler's LETTERS TO HIS WIFE and Alma's 1940 memoir, GUSTAV MAHLER: MEMORIES AND LETTERS, in particular.Using all this research, Sharratt has painted an extremely detailed picture of 1900s Vienna and the world of music and the arts. This makes for an interesting read. What doesn't work for me is the tediousness of having to listen to Alma's laments and complaints over and over, time after time. We are supposed to believe that her dissatisfaction is the result of unfulfilled dreams of artistic growth and professional recognition. And, yes, there was the legitimate complaint that Mahler did not take her talents seriously, but the whinging woe-is-me attitude that came across in this book was more a "boo-hoo, he doesn't really love me enough or appreciate me and all I do for him."And he didn't. He was an egotistical, self-absorbed man. When he ignored Alma, she was unhappy and looked for attention elsewhere. When he noticed her, she wasn't and didn't. This felt not so much like artistic dissatisfaction as personal love life dissatisfaction as presented in Sharratt's story.This book basically ends with the death of Mahler, followed by a very few pages sketching her later life and artistic endeavors. Mahler died in 1911. Alma died in 1964. I would have enjoyed reading more extensively about Alma's years when she was no longer living in Mahler's shadow, the time when she seemed to come into her own. As it is, this book dwells so long on the Alma-Mahler relationship that it often felt more like a melodramatic romance novel than historical biographical fiction.
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  • Patty
    January 1, 1970
    I jumped on reading this book because of the author before I knew anything at all about the book. I’ve read several of Ms. Sharratt’s books and enjoyed them so I was excited at the prospect of a new one. When it arrived and I read the synopsis I was intrigued. I will admit to knowing nothing about Alma Schindler Mahler and very little about her husband, Gustav. So I will admit that I did some googling and I listened to both of their compositions while I read the book. I felt that was appropriate I jumped on reading this book because of the author before I knew anything at all about the book. I’ve read several of Ms. Sharratt’s books and enjoyed them so I was excited at the prospect of a new one. When it arrived and I read the synopsis I was intrigued. I will admit to knowing nothing about Alma Schindler Mahler and very little about her husband, Gustav. So I will admit that I did some googling and I listened to both of their compositions while I read the book. I felt that was appropriate background music.This IS Alma’s story but Gustav plays an out sized role in her life an in the novel. He almost sucks the life out of her. I have to admit that he really annoyed me – but I suppose anyone with a great talent will be temperamental and a bit crazed at given times. Add that to the way women were treated at this period in time and it’s a recipe for a talented woman to lose herself in doing the expected. For that is what Alma fought against; she was a woman with many passions and her personality did not fit the model for the perfect little woman of her day. She felt she had two paths; marry and have children or be a spinster, pursue her music and be one of the dreaded “third sex.” A woman who is trying to be a man.Alma was a great beauty in her day and she had no dearth of suitors but she wanted love and passion. Her mother who lived a less than secure life wanted security for her even at the cost of love. Alma, at least in this tale seemed to fall in love with any man that was totally unsuitable for her. Even Mahler while acceptable was not financially stable.Ms. Sharratt develops her Alma in a way you would expect a sheltered teenager to behave. The character is a mass of contradictions and at times very unlikable. But she is a strong woman who believes in her talent until told by a man that she doesn’t have any. Like so many women before her and after her she learns her own self and comes out stronger for it. Whether she comes out wiser. well you will have to decide.The book is a delight to read, full of passion and pain, love, hate and joy. Ms. Sharratt brings Vienna from the turn of the 20th century alive. The good and the bad. I read the book over the course of a day. It grabbed me and just wouldn’t let me go. I also learned that I enjoy Gustav Mahler’s music very much.4.5
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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!
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  • Julianne Douglas
    January 1, 1970
    Seeking to supplement a famous man's public persona with intimate detail, authors of historical fiction often choose the man's wife to narrate his story. It's not often that the woman herself has the potential to rival her husband's brilliance, but such is the situation Mary Sharratt explores in her latest novel, ECSTASY (HMHBooks, April 2018). Written from the close third-person perspective of Alma Schindler Mahler, wife of composer Gustav Mahler and a gifted composer in her own right, ECSTASY Seeking to supplement a famous man's public persona with intimate detail, authors of historical fiction often choose the man's wife to narrate his story. It's not often that the woman herself has the potential to rival her husband's brilliance, but such is the situation Mary Sharratt explores in her latest novel, ECSTASY (HMHBooks, April 2018). Written from the close third-person perspective of Alma Schindler Mahler, wife of composer Gustav Mahler and a gifted composer in her own right, ECSTASY examines Alma's difficult position in turn-of-the-twentienth-century Vienna. In an era and locale where women were still expected to surrender their own aspirations to the duties of marriage and motherhood, Alma suffers tremendous anguish as she attempts to reconcile her musical ambitions with her awe of her husband's genius.The novel covers the years 1899 to 1911, from Alma's nineteenth summer through the year of Mahler's death. Though Alma would outlive her husband by half a century to lead a colorful, liberated existence in Austria and New York, it is the years she spends in Mahler's shadow that determine the future course of her life. Daughter of a noted painter, Albert Schindler, and stepdaughter of Carl Moll, one of the founding artists of the Vienna Secession, Alma grows up surrounded by artists and intellectuals. Encouraged by her parents, she studies piano and composition and has composed a series of lieder for piano and voice by the time she meets Mahler in 1901. After a whirlwind courtship, she marries the much-older conductor in 1902, only to abandon her studies when Mahler insists there be only one composer in the family. The bulk of the novel details Alma's struggle to subjugate her ambition and desires to the dictates of her husband's artistic life and marital expectations. The demands of motherhood, tragedy, and her husband's work schedule and frequent touring sap Alma of her mental and physical strength until she finds herself at the brink of a breakdown. Only then, having lost her grip on her true self, does she find the courage to engage in behavior that forces Mahler to reevaluate their relationship and the validity of his wife's talent and dreams.Sharratt faces a difficult task in capturing the essence of this contradictory woman, by turns meek and courageous, passive and pioneering. A fundamental ambivalence defines Alma: she relishes her role as helpmate and muse, facilitator of her husband's genius, even as she increasingly resents how catering to his needs forces her to deny her own. At times, this ambivalence renders her frustratingly submissive; at others, she commits rash, impulsive actions that almost defy explanation. The thread that binds Alma's warring selves together, that creates a whole from contradictory parts, is ecstasy: the ecstasy she experiences listening to her husband's glorious music crash over the concert hall; the elation she finds in furtive composing and amorous dalliance; the rapture she and Mahler share at intimate moments of their difficult but enduring relationship. Just as Mahler incorporates cowbells and hammerblows into symphonies of voice and instrument, to stunning effect, Sharratt probes the limitations and frustrations of Alma's marriage in order to better celebrate the ecstasy of life lived in unbounded appreciation of creative beauty.Luscious in language and beautiful in execution, ECSTASY is a novel to savor. Though the belle époque world it evokes in brilliant detail might be distant in time, the challenge Alma faces--that of extracting her self from the confines of duty and expectation to relish the fullness of life--is one that women continue to face today. Alma Schindler Mahler--muse, mother, and musician--can help them triumph.
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  • Meg - A Bookish Affair
    January 1, 1970
    "Ecstasy" is the story of Alma who has played muse to many men that you may have heard of: Walter Gropius, Gustav Klimt, Gustav Mahler, among others. Although her story has often been in the liner notes of the lives of these great creators, Alma was fascinating in her own right as the author shows. This is a fascinating story that sucked me in!You may have heard me say this before but one of the things that I like about historical fiction the most is that it often looks at people and their lives "Ecstasy" is the story of Alma who has played muse to many men that you may have heard of: Walter Gropius, Gustav Klimt, Gustav Mahler, among others. Although her story has often been in the liner notes of the lives of these great creators, Alma was fascinating in her own right as the author shows. This is a fascinating story that sucked me in!You may have heard me say this before but one of the things that I like about historical fiction the most is that it often looks at people and their lives that you wouldn't find in a history book. For so much of our past, what makes it into the history books has been largely limited to what men do, specifically white men. I think we are beginning to fix this (very, very slowly) but we are getting better at representing others in history. There is a lot of historical fiction that has the power to keep pushing us that way, including this book. Even though Alma played a role in history, I had never heard of her before. I'm glad this book changed that!Alma is a fascinating character in her own right! She dreams of being a great composer and although that world had largely been closed off for women but Alma really believes that the world is changing. Unfortunately as she finds, it hasn't changed enough to let her truly fulfill her dreams. I loved how Sharratt wrote her character. She really made her come to life!I loved the historical detail that the author included! Since I wasn't familiar with Alma, I really appreciated the details of what her world would have been like and what she might have been like. This was great!
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  • Christie Sitterly
    January 1, 1970
    Mary Sharratt’s Ecstasy is a compelling novel that immediately entrances the reader into the life of Alma Schindler. Alma is a talented fledgling composer in Vienna in the early 1900’s. Her parents wish to marry her off to a man that meets their standards while Alma searches for a passionate love in the music world. She meets Gustav Mahler, a well-known composer and they have a whirlwind romance. However, he requires that she give up all aspirations of becoming a published composer. The book det Mary Sharratt’s Ecstasy is a compelling novel that immediately entrances the reader into the life of Alma Schindler. Alma is a talented fledgling composer in Vienna in the early 1900’s. Her parents wish to marry her off to a man that meets their standards while Alma searches for a passionate love in the music world. She meets Gustav Mahler, a well-known composer and they have a whirlwind romance. However, he requires that she give up all aspirations of becoming a published composer. The book details Alma’s continuous struggles with love, ambition, and life’s heartbreaks. I struggle to offer a comparison to this book as it was a one of a kind jewel!
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  • 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.
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  • Trish
    January 1, 1970
    Ecstasy tells the story of Alma Schindler, a celebrated beauty in Fin-de-Siecle Vienna. She was a gifted pianist and composer, and she was also sought after by many prominent men. She had a passionate flirtation with Gustav Klimt and a romance with Alexander Zemlinsky. Then she met composer Gustav Mahler. They had a whirlwind romance and he wanted to marry her immediately -- with the condition that she stop composing and live as his muse. This novel is her story.First, I have to start with the c Ecstasy tells the story of Alma Schindler, a celebrated beauty in Fin-de-Siecle Vienna. She was a gifted pianist and composer, and she was also sought after by many prominent men. She had a passionate flirtation with Gustav Klimt and a romance with Alexander Zemlinsky. Then she met composer Gustav Mahler. They had a whirlwind romance and he wanted to marry her immediately -- with the condition that she stop composing and live as his muse. This novel is her story.First, I have to start with the cover -- this is one of the most beautiful novels I have seen. I wanted to read it from the very first glimpse of the cover art. I love Gustav Klimt's art but knew very little of his life, and the mention of his name in association with this novel made me curious about it. I only knew the basics about Gustav Mahler, and I am sorry to say I had not heard of Alma Schindler Mahler before reading this novel. I found Ecstasy a fascinating read. Alma Schindler found ecstasy in composing but she wanted to find joy in a romantic relationship too. I loved the early chapters that set the groundwork for this story -- the passion Alma felt for music and her excitement about life. Gustav Mahler was a strong, controlling figure. I often found him difficult, especially in light of the decisions that Alma felt compelled to make. I realize, though, that their story was a product of the time. At the time she lived, it was difficult for a woman to have both a rich creative life and a traditional family. This is a long novel but it is such an engrossing read that it flies by quickly. The historical details are beautifully told and Mary Sharratt does a fine job at balancing a large cast of characters. I found Ecstasy a compelling and rewarding read, and I recommend it highly for other fans of historical fiction.
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  • 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.
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  • Penny (Literary Hoarders)
    January 1, 1970
    This was okay. Alma is written as an overly melodramatic person - constant hand wringing about wishing she were a man so she could enjoy everything that men are allowed. Overwrought as well about her feelings of passion she wanted to act upon, again wishing she were a man to do so. So it was an okay story, it's writing was too "overly" done for the most part - if that is making any sense.
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  • Jill Meyer
    January 1, 1970
    How many people reading this review of Mary Sharratt's novel, "Ecstasy". remember the work of a singer-songwriter popular in the 1960's named Tom Leher? He wrote satirical songs about famous people and events, one of whom was a Viennese temptress named Alma Schindler Mahler Gropius Werfel. His song about ASMGW became one of his best known because the woman behind the song led such an interesting life - full of music, art, and writing...and sex. Now Mary Sharratt's novel dishes on Alma-of-the-man How many people reading this review of Mary Sharratt's novel, "Ecstasy". remember the work of a singer-songwriter popular in the 1960's named Tom Leher? He wrote satirical songs about famous people and events, one of whom was a Viennese temptress named Alma Schindler Mahler Gropius Werfel. His song about ASMGW became one of his best known because the woman behind the song led such an interesting life - full of music, art, and writing...and sex. Now Mary Sharratt's novel dishes on Alma-of-the-many-names-and-husbands. Sharratt's novel covers Alma's full life, from her beginning as a young Viennese woman - considered local talent by the local swains - to her death in 1964 at the age of 85 in New York City. She was associated either as a wife or lover of many of the most important men in Central Europe.(I think that line is from the Leher song; I can't get it out of my mind). Sharratt does a good job at telling of Alma's life with a great amount of romantic language that can only be used in a work of fiction. I might have enjoyed it a bit better had the book been written as non-fiction but then maybe a woman like Alma NEEDS flowery prose to describe her. In any case, Sharratt's book is quite enjoyable.
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  • Caryn
    January 1, 1970
    Review & giveaway on my blog: http://www.thebookwhisperer.org/2018/...
  • Jenny Q
    January 1, 1970
    Q&A with Mary Sharratt @ Let Them Read Books!
  • Nicole Beaudry
    January 1, 1970
    I really, really enjoyed Ecstasy by Mary Sharratt. It documents just over a decade of Alma Maria Schindler's life, from her first kiss with Gustav Klimt, her romance with Alexander Zemlinsky, through her courtship and marriage with the brilliant if dogmatic Gustav Mahler, and the first of her love affairs. Alma's life is not necessarily a happy one - in fact, the twelve or so years we spend with Alma are frequently unhappy. Sharratt does a great job of bringing her to life in these pages - her v I really, really enjoyed Ecstasy by Mary Sharratt. It documents just over a decade of Alma Maria Schindler's life, from her first kiss with Gustav Klimt, her romance with Alexander Zemlinsky, through her courtship and marriage with the brilliant if dogmatic Gustav Mahler, and the first of her love affairs. Alma's life is not necessarily a happy one - in fact, the twelve or so years we spend with Alma are frequently unhappy. Sharratt does a great job of bringing her to life in these pages - her voice is clear in every sentence. I listened to her compositions while reading, and it lent a lot to the experience, especially as she struggles to find a footing for herself as a composer. I also listened to Zemlinsky and Mahler, but enjoyed neither's music as much as Alma's. I think she did a great job showing a balanced portrayal of Alma, whose character could easily have been painted in a bad light, or glossed over to make her seem faultless. The relationships are all exquisitely handled, each one given a certain amount of breathing room to develop so the reader feels a tenderness towards it.I did feel like the pacing could have been improved just a little bit, as there were periods that dragged just a tiny bit, but that seems inevitable with historical fiction - one can only take so many liberties for pacing or excitement when the framework for the story is a real person's life. Sharratt seems dedicated to her subject, and it felt as though she took few liberties. I appreciate her dedication to shedding light on these forgotten, or semi-forgotten, women who history would have left behind in the shadows of the men deemed greater than them. I would definitely read more of her work, and I feel a great deal of tenderness now towards Alma, whose music will most certainly become part of my regular rotation.
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  • Ethel (artisanwriting.blogspot.com)
    January 1, 1970
    Gustav Klimt wanted to paint her, wanted to claim her body, as she was proclaimed one of the most beautiful girls in Vienna. Steeped in early 20th century gender bias, we see the beginning of a bohemian lifestyle for artistic women. Having fallen in love with Alex von Zeminsky who was giving her counterpoint lessons, she was forbidden by her parents to marry a Jew. However, it was Gustav Mahler, who was a successful composer and director of the Viennese Court Opera and Jewish as well, who claime Gustav Klimt wanted to paint her, wanted to claim her body, as she was proclaimed one of the most beautiful girls in Vienna. Steeped in early 20th century gender bias, we see the beginning of a bohemian lifestyle for artistic women. Having fallen in love with Alex von Zeminsky who was giving her counterpoint lessons, she was forbidden by her parents to marry a Jew. However, it was Gustav Mahler, who was a successful composer and director of the Viennese Court Opera and Jewish as well, who claimed her for himself, marrying her even though he was 19 years older. Yet the marriage left her with many doubts as she, a composer in her own right, accepted his proposal with the condition that she give up her composing. Over the years, with the birth of their two daughters and the loss of one of them, Alma not only feels the loss of her own creativity, but resents Mahler for denying her the one thing she loves and yearns for, composing. The couple leave Vienna with the strain of anti-Semitism that has taken hold of the city and the fact that Mahler is no longer the once loved composer and director of the Viennese Court Opera. Fleeing to New York Mahler becomes the first principal conductor of the Metropolitan Opera and then the New York Philharmonic. But matters worsen with Alma having a nervous breakdown and Mahler diagnosed with a heart condition. While taking a rest cure at the sanatorium, Alma meets Walter Gropius as 27 year old architect. Once again she is conflicted between her desires.This novel explores the difficulty women had in expressing themselves artistically at a time in history when they were nothing more than chattels. It was just the beginning of the Bohemian lifestyle and the female gender had a long way to go. As always with historical fiction, while it is interesting to read, you enter a different era and there is much to learn, always fascinating.Ms. Sharratt has given us, the reader, a wonderful novel. Bravo and thank you. I wish to thank NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Stephanie (Bookfever)
    January 1, 1970
    Oh, to sense the heights. To be a mountain. To be great and expansive, bursting with potentiality. I signed up for the blog tour of Ecstasy because the synopsis sounded incredible and right up my alley. In the last year I've become really intrigued with books set in the early 20th century, especially if the setting is in Vienna and if the story revolves around a real woman in history like Alma. She definitely wasn't a perfect character. She had her flaws and problems but even so I hadn't expect Oh, to sense the heights. To be a mountain. To be great and expansive, bursting with potentiality. I signed up for the blog tour of Ecstasy because the synopsis sounded incredible and right up my alley. In the last year I've become really intrigued with books set in the early 20th century, especially if the setting is in Vienna and if the story revolves around a real woman in history like Alma. She definitely wasn't a perfect character. She had her flaws and problems but even so I hadn't expected to fall in love with this brilliant book the way I did. I even read until 2:00 pm to finish the story just because I didn't want to put the book down and stop reading.The story is about Alma Schindler (later Alma Mahler), who more than anything wants to be a sucessful composer. When she meets the nearly twenty years older and accomplished composer Gustav Mahler, they fall for each other. But for their marriage his condition is that she gives up her music so that there's more room for his own, essentially. This causes Alma to be utterly torn between her passion for composing and her love for Gustav.I can't quite put my finger on what exactly made this book so good. Vienna at the turn of the 20th century, the complex character of Alma, the artistic men she came in contact with and who all seemed to be enchanted by her, the bittersweet element of the story, the writing... I just loved it all. It also doesn't happen often but I ended this book with tears in my eyes. This just shows how totally taken I was with it. I'm so glad the author put the spotlight on Alma Mahler the way she did in this amazing story. I want more people to also read this book and hopefully also fall in love with it the way I did. Ecstasy by Mary Sharratt was one amazing and beautifully written story. I honestly fell in love with it from the very first page and continued being completely hooked throughout the whole novel. It was just phenomenal!
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  • 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
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  • Denise
    January 1, 1970
    At the turn of the twentieth-century, one woman will defy all odds and define The Arts as no one before her has. Alma, a nineteen year old, living in Vienna, with dreams of becoming a composer. Unheard of during this particular time period, especially for a woman, she turns herself inside out in order to make her mark on the world. The torment, the challenges, the euphoria, sadness and romance; all a part of her as she fights to hold onto her family, her loves, herself. This historical fiction i At the turn of the twentieth-century, one woman will defy all odds and define The Arts as no one before her has. Alma, a nineteen year old, living in Vienna, with dreams of becoming a composer. Unheard of during this particular time period, especially for a woman, she turns herself inside out in order to make her mark on the world. The torment, the challenges, the euphoria, sadness and romance; all a part of her as she fights to hold onto her family, her loves, herself. This historical fiction is a story of the bittersweet that will captivate as it immerses you in as to how this woman fights for her true existence and the life she wants, but more importantly, the life she needs. Very well written and a true learning experience as to some of the most treasured symphony halls and revered classical music written in history. I found it intriguing to research the referenced composers themselves and the music also referenced within the book, all which can be found online. For me, it added yet another level to the experience as to the depth of these characters, most of which are historical to the classical music and art worlds. The fascinating world of Alma Mahler will not disappoint.(ARC)Novels&Latte Book ClubNovels&Latte Book Blog
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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