Friday, June 20, 2014

Book Review -- The Fortune Hunter

The Fortune Hunter: A NovelThe Fortune Hunter: A Novel by Daisy Goodwin
My enjoyment rating: 3 of 5 stars
Hangover rating: 2
Source:  Book club kit (10 copies) provided by Reading Group Guides through a random drawing. I was not compensated in anyway for my review.
Genre:  Historical fiction
Objectionable material:  None

Steeped in the tradition of British and European royalty, entitled British landowners, summer estates and fox hunts, author Daisy Goodwin has created a fictional account of the lives of Sisi (Elizabeth), Empress of Austria, her "pilot" Bay Middleton, and Bay's "fiancée" Charlotte Baird. Generously mixed with other historical characters, like Queen Victoria and her companion, Mr. Brown -- the stage is set for a luscious, historical drama.

Ms Goodwin accurately portrays the historical facts of these individuals and subsequent love triangle -- Sisi is lonely, she's obsessed with her looks, she's an expert horsewoman; Bay is a well known Casanova (already alleged to have fathered an out of wedlock child), an expert horseman and British officers; Charlotte, the woman who would eventually marry Bay.

But the fictional story around these three seemed bogged down by the need to make sure it was historically accurate. The structure kept the story from feeling authentic -- just a repetition of known facts about their fox-hunting summer. The most "real" character was Caspar -- a fictional American character created to be Charlotte's friend and photography colleague. He truly was the most entertaining and fresh character in the book.

Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805–1873), Kaiserin Elisabeth von Österreich (Portrait of Elizabeth, Queen of Austria)I think in the end, both I and my book groupies would have preferred an autobiography of Sisi.

That being said -- the group loved being able to read the book club kit provided by Reading Group Guides in advance of the American release date. Thank you.


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