Blog Book Tour | ” Ecstasy” by Mary Sharratt A Biological Historical Fiction account of the life of Alma Mahler and how her intense love affair with Gustav Mahler changed her life.

Posted Friday, 18 May, 2018 by jorielov , , 1 Comment

 

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Acquired Book By: I am a regular tour hostess for blog tours via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours whereupon I am thankful to have been able to host such a diverse breadth of stories, authors and wonderful guest features since I became a hostess! I received a complimentary copy of “Ecstasy” direct from the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Why I wanted to read this novel about Alma Mahler:

This particular author has a special connection to Jorie Loves A Story – especially in regards to milestones and memories! Whilst I was a 1st Year Book Blogger, I had the pleasure of joy reading Illuminations: {A novel of Hildegard von Bingen} as my debut review for Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in November, 2013! The novel introduced me to an enriched version of reading biographies – an introduction that would carry me forward into the wonderful world of what I refer to as ‘Biographical Historical Fiction’; a mainstay of my reading queues! As routed through this category of interest!

From that foundation, I started to seek out traditional biographies and memoirs, under the new vein of interest called ‘Creative Non-Fiction’ where the stories are threaded through an emotional contextual core of narrative. For you see, if I hadn’t first read Illuminations all the lovelies I’ve been discovering since might not have alighted in my hands to read. Mary Sharratt truly opened my mind and eyes to how a story could be told whilst peering back into the historical past through a living history of a person who once lived. Her style of the craft is quite acutely realistic for the time periods she’s exploring; she has a conviction of setting with a lifeblood of drawing characters out of the wells of history to give us a resounding portrait of ‘who once lived’ can live once again in our own imaginations.

Whilst during my 3rd Year as a Book Blogger, I had the joy of discovering her prose within The Dark Lady’s Mask (see also Review) and now, as a newly minted 5th Year Book Blogger – I am embarking into my third reading of her collective works with Ecstasy! There is something quite special about the way in which Ms Sharratt approaches her subjects and characters – as I had this to say whilst encountering my last stay inside one of her stories:

I knew I would find the narrative an eloquent historical tome of insight on behalf of what I know of Sharratt’s writings; she fuses so much in such a short expanse of the story, you fully live within their pages. Her narrative has a way of not just transporting you back into the 16th Century but allowing you a bit of grace to flex your mind around what living in the 16th Century would be like from a sensory perception of insight. She taunts what you presume to be true with what is known about the century, giving you much more of a grounded respite than a flowery historical. This felt authentic to the era but also, to how the world would have been viewed during the different stages of Aemilia’s life.

I was caught up in the current of how fluid Ms Sharratt composed this novel and how she worked the story-line through the mind of a poetess. She truly championed the will of a poet and of a creative seeking to find their own way to express their creativity whilst proving that finding one’s way in life isn’t as easily to understand. Ms Sharratt will remain a favourite of mine to read, if only to see how her own mind fashions itself around thought, theory, inspiration and the fragility of where history and time become entwined as one. I will definitely savour the time I spend within The Dark Lady’s Mask the second time I read it, as it is not one you wish to put down in haste!

Only within the chapters of Illuminations did I find myself most akin to reading a different lifestyle than one I could personally relate too. As the elements of The Dark Lady’s Mask had such wonderful overtures of recognition from my favourite Bard, I felt there were portions of the narrative I had a pre-cursory understanding of – as I stepped inside Ecstasy, it was an easier transition by half, as any creative economist who picks up this novel will self-identity with Alma’s strong desire and need to fulfill not only her creative muses but to strike out on her own to develop her creative identity.

As such, this is one text where I found myself attempting to find the right words to articulate my reactions as I found the context of the story to be illuminatingly stimulating in it’s own right to parlay a multitude of thoughts about it’s inner theme, the heart of it’s message and the purpose we all seek as self-directed artists seeking our true selves and the rightful path we must walk in order to embrace the artistry within us which has not yet been revealled. These are the kinds of ruminative thoughts I am appreciative of being challenged to convey – as the writers who write these kinds of stories are digging into something dimensionally deeper than what might first be seen on the surface of their characters’ lives.

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Blog Book Tour | ” Ecstasy” by Mary Sharratt A Biological Historical Fiction account of the life of Alma Mahler and how her intense love affair with Gustav Mahler changed her life.Esctasy
by Mary Sharratt
Source: Publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

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 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, daughter, sister, mother, wife, lover, and muse.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

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ISBN: 9780544800892

Also by this author: Illuminations: {A novel of Hildegard von Bingen}, The Dark Lady's Mask

Genres: Biographical Fiction, Historical Fiction


Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

on 10th April, 2018

Format: Paperback ARC

Pages: 387

Published ByHoughton Mifflin Harcourt (@HMHCo)

Converse via: #EcstasyBlogTour, #AlmaMahler + #HistFic
Available Formats: Hardcover & Ebook

About Mary Sharratt

Mary Sharratt

MARY SHARRATT is an American writer who has lived in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, for the past seven years. The author of the critically acclaimed novels Summit Avenue, The Real Minerva, and The Vanishing Point, Sharratt is also the co-editor of the subversive fiction anthology Bitch Lit, a celebration of female antiheroes: strong women who break all the rules.

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My Review of esctasy:

The most beautiful entrance into understanding an artistic soul is on display within the very first opening remarks made by Alma in Esctasy – as she is cross-relating how painters and musicians can relate to one another by how even though their canvas of creativity differs from each other, it is the palette of choice in which their soulful artistic expression is on full display for all to see a portion of themselves which cannot be seen otherwise. This is a similar sentiment to my own wherein I cross-compare writing and musical score – even though, I have noticed for most of my life, music by itself relates to us on a different plane of understanding that spoken or written words. Music can reach portions of ourselves in such a way as to extract out a wholly new perspective both on the world outside and our internal understanding of ourselves, of life and the universe in general.

As we start to peer into why Alma felt such a soulful yearning to instill her muse into the chords of her compositions, we find a woman on the verge of finding her truer self – of the breaking free of the illusions of where society wanted a feminine mind to find restriction of place rather than artistic liberty and how even if you were the first of your kind to entertain a different passion of the craft, your path was justified in being taken. It is the hopefulness of an artist not yet fully confident in their compositions and their ability to infuse their spirit into their works – of finding a direct connection from their soul to their art even if they are wholly aware of the synergy bubbling in their veins, it is here we entreat to find Alma on the very fringe of sorting out a way to define who she is and to fully embrace why she must walk a different path than others her age.

I definitely could *relate!* to Alma’s vexations – just when you feel you’ve reached a pivotal period of self-growth, of where you can literally see yourself about to blossom into a wholly new stage of your life – something muddles your plans! In this case, her spirit was full of cherry blossoms but her outside world was covered in dreary weather forecasts! I, personally thrive in opposite seasons – where most prefer Spring or Summer, I quite literally crave Autumn and Winter! Despite this, I can respect how we each find harmonic attachment to whichever season most brings out our joyfulness of hopeful awakening – those feelings of being on the verge of discovering something so uniquely new it is hard to sit still to await the hour in which we first notice a transmorphication (aka
transmogrification*, the physical alteration into a new shape; herein, I referenced it as shifting into a new version of oneself without the physicality attached) has occurred within us!

*NOTE: (see also Full Definition with variable interpretations)

Her hope for growth was centred on her art, on her musical incantations and perhaps, due to her nature of being self-directed as an artist, she was not connecting the dots so to speak about the outside world and the impressions of how her natural growth into the maturity of age as a woman might reflect on her companionable availability to a man who was seeking physical connection with a girl who was not quite ready to stand on her own feet outside the comfortable protection of her parents. For Alma was not entirely naive about the world, no, it was more to the point she was inexperienced in regards to men and relationships – her mother and step-father were quite to criticise her even know of her own birth origins were of taboo background for the century in which they lived (although not much has altered in that perspective of public scrutiny even today!). No, Alma was caught unawares by a predatory man who knew exactly how to evoke the reaction he wanted out of an ingenue and willing companion who hadn’t realised what she was seeking when she started to dream about where her life would take her next.

In many ways, Klimt was awakening her sexuality with such intensity she could not properly assess what she felt on a carnal level vs a romantic one – her lust grew from a place of unwelcomed pleasure (unwelcomed due to how she was not given a choice, he took her innocence without proper consent; he expected her to reciprocate) and was built against the inflictions of criticism from her family which in another regard was slighting her against them. She was caught between girlhood and womanhood – forced to step across a threshold she was not prepared to accept and was kept in the dark about such adult matters by a family who left her unawares of the ways of the world until of course, it was literally arriving through their front door!

An insurrection of sanity erupted inside Alma’s young life – her innate gift of composition and musical agility was interrupted by financial strife (along with the arrival of another babe) which set her jaw aflame with rage for the absurdity she would be allowed to hone her gift of the craft of creating music if only she were to be hindered from pursuing a life filled with sharing her talent. You can understand her parents point of reference here – of how they saw things more in a straight-cut fashion – a girl of Alma’s age should be more sensible, more mouldable to conform to what society would expect of her – a proper match, a wedding and a contented life therein. Yet, Alma was not her sister, her felt more like a willow who would bend and yield to the will of her husband even if it struck a thorn in her thumb for going against her talent as an artist. Alma foresaw the future and it was not one she would accept as predestined.

Instead, as she saw the movements of how her family expected her tides to turn, she started to settle her thoughts on what she could control. She could become someone else outside her familial personality – an altered state of living where the confidence she rarely felt would embolden her choices whilst she was away from family and the familiarities of a secure and sheltered existence. Contrary to her own experience- where her mind played tricks on her as part of her interior sanctity had been disturbed by Klimt, were her sister’s struggles of both mental health and warring confliction of lacking the self-resolve to speak her mind. Her sister was not a strong woman, never believing she could use her voice to express her innermost thoughts and took extreme measures to overcompensate for her self-inflicted miseries; a measure so great, it affected Alma in return.

There are layers here which warrant exploration – of how you can see Alma exchanging her views and opinions as readily as one might switch hats. She has zero self-confidence and due to the nature of how she had been raised, she is unprepared for the world in which she is now fully apart of exploring. It is almost as if she blossomed too early and would have been better to have waited – not to have been thrust into a role her body was unprepared to tackle and with a heart which was still innocent enough to believe a man’s intentions were always honourable without illicit intentions without the proper foundation of respect, honour and consent.

You are privy to her thoughts and to her actions in equal measure as both are important guides towards understanding what internally was affecting her soul the most. She was confused on multiple levels about romance, love, lust and the honour of marriage; her mother only complicated matters by not allowing her the selection of choice in choosing whom she wanted to court. For Alma, if it were a choice between her music or a romance, she’d feel either choice would be a sacrifice too great to surrender; for she wanted liberty before women had the right to reclaim it.

In many regards, I was not quite prepared for the intensity of the emotional anguish revolving through this novel – nor the awakening evocations of Alma’s sexuality – not that I shy away from such topics, as two previous reads bespoke of the same awakening on behalf of their characters (see also Etched On Me) and (see also all in her head); yet I think it is merely the timing of my reading of Ecstasy which was not quite of a good fit for me as I had fore-planned it to being. With my health issues this Spring, I was not able to read this ahead of May, at which point in time my heart was leaning more towards reading fantastical worlds or thrilling suspense novels – the gravity of how dearly Alma fell under the spell of Klimt is a credit to how articulate her life was threaded through the pen of Ms Sharratt – but it became a very hard-hitting, challenging read all the same.

On why I love reading a novel by Mary Sharratt:

Ms Sharratt brings up such a valid point in why creators throughout all ages have embraced the artistic nature of the arts and the generational pull of needing to create rather than focusing on a career path strictly for the sake of monetary gain. Artists – irregardless of their creative expression or medium of interest are generally creating for the sake of finding a way to express what has been divinely etched into their very being – by heart, by imagination and by harmonic fusion of finding the creative inclinations innate to their own creative instincts. To create is to be in-line with a passion and talent so naturally intrinsic to yourself, not to create would to act against your own nature.

This novel reads like it’s own composition, you can sense out the highs and valleys of the song even if the lyrics are not traditionally heard, the narrative itself takes the rooted place of the words which could have sung across the aching chords of Alma’s exit from living a cocooned life without the mistakes of a youthful woman who had not yet considered the consequences of impulsive reactions. As Sharratt places us straight into the scene of where Klimt takes a mistress without the girl even suspecting this would be a role she would play – as she saw herself differently than someone who could easily be dismissed or replaced – you feel the pulse of the concerto arching itself into the frenzy you know the orchestra would be able to rise to meet. In full essence, this is a story about Alma better understanding her own muliebrity and the power within it.

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This blog tour is courtesy of:

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours - HFVBT

Follow the Virtual Road Map by visiting the blog tour route:

Ecstasy blog tour via HFVBTs
 I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!
Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst readers who gravitate towards the same stories to read. Bookish conversations are always welcome!

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2018 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge badge created by Jorie in Canva.

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{SOURCES: Book cover for “Esctasy”, book synopsis, author biography, author photograph of Mary Sharratt, the tour host badge and HFVBTs badge were all provided by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and used with permission. Post dividers badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Book Review Banner using Unsplash.com (Creative Commons Zero) Photography by Frank McKenna, 2018 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge banner and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2018.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Friday, 18 May, 2018 by jorielov in 18th Century, 19th Century, Alma Mahler, Biographical Fiction & Non-Fiction, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, British Literature, Classical Music | Composers, Composer, Creative Arts, Gustav Klimt, Gustav Mahler, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, Historical Romance, Inspired by Stories, Musical Fiction | Non-Fiction




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