All for Love Hardcover – Sep 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
A chance encounter in 1895 between a princess and a debonair military man leads to a scandalous relationship in British writer Jacobson's woefully stilted 10th novel. Princess Louise, daughter of King Leopold II of Belgium, leaves her husband and embarks on an orgiastic spending spree across Europe with Geza Mattachich, a Croatian lieutenant in the Austro-Hungarian army, racking up debts and fraudulently securing a lease for "one of the most beautiful properties on the French Riviera," the latter giving Louise's family an excuse to imprison Mattachich and place Louise in an asylum. After long years of internment, both escape and are reunited, thanks to the unlikely help of Maria Stöger, a working-class woman who had an affair with Mattachich in prison. Jacobson, unfortunately, fails to capitalize on the story's dramatic potential and errs on the side of half-baked biography over taut narrative; footnotes and excerpts from the historical princess's and lieutenant's self-serving memoirs and other obscure reference materials clutter swaths of pages, and the prose rarely rises about lackluster. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* Jacobson presents the story of an affair, set deeply within a rich historical setting: pre-World War I Europe and a social sphere accustomed to palaces and luxurious hotels. The liaison partners are actual historical figures--Princess Louise, daughter of the king of Belgium, who married into a distinguished family high in court circles surrounding the emperor of Austria, and a more-or-less no-account lieutenant in the Austrian army, Geza Mattachich. Louise and Geza breach protocol by the carelessness of their affair. The result is banishment from Vienna, being viewed as social pariahs, and enduring critical financial hardship as they roam homeless over the continent. Even incarceration was part of their new life. Using a compelling third-person narrative voice--the author peers intimately into events but reports them with an ironic detachment--Jacobson, a highly regarded South African writer, offers footnotes throughout the narrative, which reference actual historical sources, including the lovers' memoirs. That technique makes for a brilliant anchoring of imagination to authenticity. This completely absorbing novel is at once serious and humorous; it is realistic but at the same time entertainingly melodramatic. Historical fiction as true literary fiction. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Unfortunately, there were so many factual and linguistic errors in the first few dozen pages that I got increasingly frustrated. On page 66, I finally gave up since I no longer viewed this as an intellectually stimulating read. Writers who use many foreign words usually want to either evoke a more 'authentic' feel of the outlandish setting of the novel or show off their own linguistic skills. No matter whether the author himself speaks German - at least the book's editors might have checked some of the spelling.
The Italian name of Venice is wrongly spelled "Venetia" (instead of Venezia, p.19), the main protagonist's title is given as "Louise von Sachse-Coburg" (instead of Sachsen-Coburg, p.24). Other errors like "Mittelschuler" (instead of Mittelschüler, p. 19), "Stadtsoper" (instead of "Staatsoper", p.39) or "gräfin" (instead of "Gräfin", p. 66) might just be typos. And citing Sigmund Freud's work "Studies on Hysteria" as "Studies in Hysteria" might just be an alternative translation [...]Something that might happen to the best of writers...
But then there is that reference to "Egon Klimt striking a price with a consumptive prostitute whom he is eager to paint in the flat desperate colors he is making his own". Interesting. This must be Egon SCHIELE, right? Dan Jacobson couldn't have meant Gustav Klimt, famous for his decorative Jugendstil paintings dominated by gold and bright colours, could he? But that's odd, since Schiele was born in 1890 and Jacobson is talking about Vienna in 1896 at this point - a six-year-old painting prostitutes would have been quite unusual, I think.
And then, further down on the same page, he evokes "Ludwig von Wittgenstein" as a boy on a walk with his governess. I think he probably didn't mean the Renaissance count Ludwig von Wittgenstein (1532-1605,[...]) but the philosopher and author of the "Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus". He was from one of Europe's wealthiest families but not an aristocrat - therefore, his name had no "von", he was just "Ludwig Wittgenstein" [...]. Simple mistakes, right? Who cares about a "von" in a name anyway?
But then what about calling Franz Joseph I., Emperor of Austria, "king"? (p60) Or referring to him as "Franz Josef" instead of "Franz Joseph" throughout the book?
I gave up on page 66 since I'd become bored by the sloppiness of the book's research. The story of the aristocratic love triangle and subsequent imprisonment, bankruptcy and madness of the protagonists would have been interesting, of course, but the prose really did not make up for the careless treatment of the historical setting.
Instead, I entertained myself making analogies for an entire afternoon... and decided I'd probably one day publish a historical novel about the 19th century since I'd always been interested in the reign of Empress Viktoria, her beloved Prince Albert of Sax-Coburg, the work of famous writers like Sir Charles Dickens or W.B. Tennyson, the rise of operas and theatres like the Old Vik, and the big changes that the Industrial Revolution wrought on cities like Mancester... Writing historical novels can't be that difficult after all, seeing that "All for Love" got published, too...
I believe the book's titular "love" was never part of their endgame (sorry to disappoint!) They are two united pilgrims of imagination, seeking to discover what lies beyond the strictures of class in Hapsburg Vienna. Once they find it, puzzlingly, they don't stop. They continue on in an intractable gyre of indigence and affliction of their own making, only ending, in this life at least, in death. While on the one hand the reader marvels at their brazen, obscene commitment to finish what they audaciously start, one cannot help but ponder, was it all worth it?