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Book Review: Ecstasy by Mary Sharratt

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First line: Nineteen years old, Alma Maria Schindler longed body and soul for an awakening.

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 understan…

Interview with Mary Sharratt on her newest novel, Ecstasy

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I'm an enormous Mary Sharratt fan; her novels are rich, detailed, evocative, complicated, lush, and compelling. (See my reviews for Illuminations and The Dark Lady's Mask.) I'm sharing my review of her newest novel, Ecstasy, tomorrow, but needless to say, it'll be all gushing praise. Sharratt's portrait of Alma Mahler, Gustave Mahler's beautiful, talented wife, is so good. I couldn't say I liked Alma's choices, but Sharratt allowed me to imagine why she would have made them.

I'm delighted to share my interview with Ms. Sharratt about Ecstasy. There's also a giveaway at the end, too!

How did Alma's story cross your path?

I’ve always been a huge Gustav Mahler fan. I adore his music and he appears like the perfect tragic hero, rising up from rural obscurity and facing insurmountable struggles in his life, and meeting his untimely death with great courage and dignity. But then I became intrigued by the figure of his wife, Alma, especially after …

Weekend reads and wow, it's been a while...

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Yikes, it's been a while.

Winter did a number on me, as it always does; although I can say that while I wasn't reading much (and clearly not blogging about it), I've been filling my time. This year I've finished six knitting projects, which is a record for me given that I normally only manage one piece a year!

A few weeks ago, we adopted two cats since Unabridged Kid and I had reached our limit of cat-less living. After bickering over names for two weeks, we finally reached agreement: Gus, from Gus's Garage, and Stanley, from Stanley's Garage. (Notice a theme?)

I've fallen terribly behind on my novel; I pretty much stalled out after the winter holidays, and I've just gotten back into a morning writing habit (one hundred-ish agonizing words a day, le sigh).

This weekend I'm starting Mary Sharratt's Ecstasy, a historical novel about Alma Mahler. Gifted in her own right, she put all that away for her marriage, and I'm kind of shoulder tense i…