“In a Gilded Cage” by Suzanne Appleyard is a skilful attempt at portraying the famous Empress Sisi / Elizabeth of Austria, from the days before she meets her husband in the mid-1800s until his inauguration. Sisi is a figure that has always inspired writers, historians and even film makers; the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph I, and thus Empress of Austria, Queen of Hungary and Queen consort of Croatia and Bohemia.
Appleyard’s book is among the more serious and factual of them, less romanticised and more influenced by the consistent rumours and darker sides of Sisi, as well as putting her life in the wider political context as the personal circumstances of her upbringing and life at Vienna’s court.
Having grown up in Bavaria with the Sisi movies as regular fixture in the TV programming, I found much of Appleyard’s portrayal plausible, explaining the parts of Sisi’s life that don’t seem to add up with the public perception in a well-researched and documented fashion.
As a consequence, the style sometimes is closer to a biography than a novel. Use of language and descriptive detail is very pleasing and historically this is of great value. It also managed not to spoil my love for the romantic versions of the story by showing Sisi in a sympathetic light. A great effort.
This book has been honoured as a B.R.A.G. Medallion winner by IndieBrag. Elisabeth (Sisi) enjoyed a carefree lifestyle in the hills of Bavaria until she was chosen by Emperor Franz Josef of Austria to be his wife. At the age of sixteen, she moved into the imperial palaces of Vienna, where a hostile court despised her for her low birth and strict protocol ruled her every act. She had no other purpose than to adorn the emperor’s arm on ceremonial occasions and to make babies who were taken from her at birth to be raised by her domineering mother-in-law. Of too sensitive a spirit, she was often ill and anorexic and had to flee the court to distant places in order to heal. She struggled to find a place for herself in this alien environment until she found a cause into which she could pour her heart and soul: Hungary. Like Sisi herself, Hungary struggled to find a place for itself where it would not be subsumed by a soulless empire. Having found her salvation, she also found a man she could love in the great patriot, Count Andrassy.
The book on Amazon