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review 2018-07-14 18:34
An Eve or a Lilith
Ecstasy: A Novel of Alma Mahler - Mary Sharratt

Most people may have heard of the names Gustav Mahler and Gustav Klimt, but the names Alma Mahler and Alma Maria Schindler probably mean nothing to you. Admittedly they didn’t to me either. However, with Mary Sharratt’s newest novel, I’m glad to have finally had the chance to learn something about one very interesting woman. If you read my review of this book on my blog here, you’ll find out where all these names, and more, come together in one historical fiction novel. http://drchazan.blogspot.com/2018/07/an-eve-or-lilith.html

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text 2018-06-29 15:51
June wrap up
The Flight of the Griffin - C.M. Gray
Cat Lady Embroidery: 380 Ways to Stitch a Cat - Applemints
Gypsy Blood - Jeff Gunhus
Ecstasy: A Novel of Alma Mahler - Mary Sharratt
A Secret Twice Hidden - Shanna Lauffey
The City of Brass - S.A. Chakraborty

So, I finished 6 books this month. Not bad for me. 4 of them were Netgalley reads and all of those were good, as was the most recent installment of the time travel series I follow. The one YA book I read was reasonably good even, with a few allowances.

 

The only problem is that when I was giving feedback at Netgalley, I went a bit mad and requested too many books again! If my currently reading shelf looks mental, it's because I always put my review promises there, even if I haven't started them yet.

 

This could take a while.

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review 2018-06-14 09:23
Ecstasy
Ecstasy: A Novel of Alma Mahler - Mary Sharratt

by Mary Sharratt

 

Near the turn of the 19th century, Alma Schindler yearns to make her mark as a composer. Female composers are unknown at the time, though new possibilities for women are opening up. She marries Gustav Mahler, who insists she give up her music as a condition of their marriage.

 

I liked the writing voice on this one right away. Alma had such enthusiasm that I wanted to see her achieve her dream from the start. The story takes us through her life as a young girl, her first love and her relationship with her various family members, but especially with her music.

 

It's not all upbeat though. Alma sacrifices a lot for her marriage and it's inevitable that she will question her decisions as time goes on. Mahler himself is a challenge to deal with and it was an era when women were expected to suppress their own needs and be supportive of a husband. Alma is a naturally passionate and creative person and this state of affairs can only clash with her natural inclinations.

 

I enjoyed reading this, despite the unhappy parts. The narrative kept my attention, even if at times I wanted to shake Alma and tell her she was making some bad decisions.

 

The historical note at the end was as interesting as the story itself. Alma was a woman ahead of her time, though her unfaithfulness in her marriages would bring a lot of criticism. She weathered some difficult times and gave her love to some of the top composers of her time. Some of her own compositions can be found on YouTube and I couldn't resist having a listen after reading this story. I found her 5 Lieder for voice and piano pretty amazing and can only imagine that if her music had been supported earlier in her life that she might have been recognised in history as one of the great composers herself, rather than just a shadow of her husband's accomplishments.

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review 2017-05-03 11:00
The Unpopular Genius: Gustav Mahler by Alma Mahler-Werfel
Gustav Mahler: Memories and Letters - Alma Mahler-Werfel,Donald Mitchell,Knud Martner
Gustav Mahler (German Edition) - Alma Mahler-Werfel

As beautiful, highly educated and endowed for the arts as Alma Mahler-Werfel (1879-1964) was, she could have achieved a lot in the world, but during most of her life she remained in the shadows of her famous husbands and lovers. She had the bad luck to have been born at a time, when women only made their first tentative steps to claim their rights and their own place in society. Although her family and the circles that they frequented were among the most liberal of the fin de siècle, young and shy Alma quite naturally obeyed the command of her much older first husband Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) to give up for good all her own musical ambitions and activities. In 1939, when the Nazi regime defamed his work because he had been a Jew converted to Protestantism and refused him his place in the world of music, she brought out her very personal tribute to him under the title Gustav Mahler. Memories and Letters.

 

Alma Mahler-Werfel begins her largely admiring memories of her late husband with their first encounter at a dinner party in November 1901. Although frequenting the same circles, until then she had managed to avoid meeting the controversial conductor and composer Gustav Mahler against whom public opinion and malicious gossip had biased her. Moreover, Alma had been to a performance of his First Symphony and – like most music lovers of the time – she loathed it because even she as a student of composition couldn’t understand his modern approach. However, the middle-aged musician was immediately attracted to the young woman and quite naturally she was impressed by the man and flattered by his attentions. Passionate and used to getting what he wanted, Gustav Mahler didn’t take long to make Alma his bride and he expected of her no less than giving up her own life as well as identity. For her it was a great sacrifice to abandon her music studies and composing, but she was convinced that it was worth it. And she never lost this conviction although she acknowledges to have been too young as well as too inexperienced and romantic to have known better. On their wedding day in March 1902 – scarce four months after their first encounter – Alma was already with child, but her condition changed nothing. He and his needs were all that counted even after their daughter was born and then another daughter. She never once reproached him for his egotism and lack of regard for her because she felt that as a musical genius he stood so much above her. Besides, she was aware that he needed the stability of home and her support since he had to cope with opposition from all sides – for his Jewish descent, for his modernist understanding of music, and for his tempers and idiosyncrasies. At the cost of her own health, she stayed by his side on his travels until his untimely death in May 1911.

 

Every word of Alma Mahler-Werfel shows her unshakable awe of her ingenious husband and of his music although she didn’t go far beyond summarising the facts of their life together. I can’t help thinking that she left out quite a lot in order to paint as positive a picture of the man Gustav Mahler as she could. Maybe this was also due to her innate reserve and delicacy. It seems that she wasn’t actually a woman who wished to spread out her private life in public and in the foreword from 1939 she says herself that she hadn’t intended to publish her memories of Gustav Mahler or his letters to her during her lifetime. Seeing the Nazi regime talking ill of her late husband and denying his musical genius urged her to bring out the book in the dawn of World War Two. Although her portrait is necessarily biased and moreover incomplete, Gustav Mahler. Memories and Letters by Alma Mahler-Werfel is a partly forgotten read that definitely deserves my recommendation.

 

 

Gustav Mahler: Memories and Letters - Alma Mahler-Werfel,Donald Mitchell,Knud Martner  Gustav Mahler (German Edition) - Alma Mahler-Werfel  

 

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review 2015-05-19 00:22
A legend in her own time
Malevolent Muse: The Life of Alma Mahler - Oliver Hilmes,Donald Arthur

There is no doubt that Alma Mahler indeed led a dramatic life.  Not only was she married to the composer, Gustav Mahler, the architect, Walter Gropius, and the author, Franz Werfel, but she had affairs and flirtations with numerous men, many of some distinction.  Everywhere she turned, she rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous.  The list of those her life intersected with is quite mind boggling.

 

However, she was a deeply troubled woman who had severe problems in her relationships with not only the many men in her life but also her family and children.  She would fluctuate, sometimes on a daily basis, from loving someone to hating them.  The fascination of this book lies in that dichotomy.   There are many quotes throughout the book in her own words taken directly from her diaries.  And those words could often be so callous as to be truly shocking.  Those who met her were either bewitched by her or repulsed by her. 

 

The author has done a wonderful job of putting this book together and attempting to work out exactly who this colorful personage was.  The research done was meticulous and he’s written a very interesting book.  Not only are you treated to reading about a fascinating life, but you also will have much insight into the lives of Mahler and Werfel and the intellectual scene of that time.  I’m glad I read the hardcover edition of this book rather than a digital version since it’s full of interesting photos that wouldn’t have shown up well on my e-reader.  The book itself is beautifully bound.

 

While you may not end up having much admiration for parts of Alma Mahler’s life, the fact that she created such a legend in her own lifetime is a masterpiece in itself.

 

I won a copy of this book on LibraryThings with the understanding that I would give an honest review.

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