Giddy sugarplum? Calculating shrew? Mozart's biographers show disdain for his Konstanze, and she aroused strong feelings among her contemporaries. Her in-laws loathed her; his friends, more than forty years after his death, remained eager to gossip about her “failures” as wife to the world’s first superstar. Maturing from child, to wife, to hardheaded widow, Konstanze paid her husband’s debts, provided for their children, and relentlessly marketed and mythologized her brilliant husband. Mozart’s letters attest to his affection for Konstanze as well as to their powerful sexual bond. Yet the question remains: Why did she never mark his grave?
"I downloaded "Mozart's Wife", because it was a work of historical fiction (which I enjoy), and because in my years of singing, my operatic repertoire has become particularly Mozart-heavy. Mozart loved his coloraturas, and wasn't afraid to write very difficult pieces for them. Of course, I know a great deal about the less-than-admirable life of the child prodigy who, like so many child prodigies, did not end his life with the same promise with which it began. However, I know less about his wife Constanze (Konstanze, or Stanzi in this book). She's always depicted as petite, slightly plump, voluptuous, and bursting with energy that attracted many admirers. Since Mozart has a reputation as a philanderer, an alcoholic, a gambler, and a person of many other vices, it's widely portrayed in books and popular culture that his wife was of the same temperament. One would assume, especially after watching "Amadeus", that they were a pair of liberal party-hoppers with high aspirations but little sense of practicality.
This book shows a different side to Konstanze, a woman who struggled to deal with a neurotic, unfaithful, and chronically irresponsible husband whose flaws were to be forgiven because of her genius. She also struggled of living in the shadow of two gifted sisters, one an extraordinary beauty Mozart wanted to marry but instead helped her to launch a career as a prima donna. In the character portrayed, you don't see a flighty and sensual woman, but one who might have been content with a less glamorous and more stable life. Upon Mozart's death, she found herself to be 28, in severe debt, prematurely aging, and willing to bury her husband in a pauper's grave and lock up all relics of his life. You see someone who is not mourning the loss of love, but carrying the burden of anger at how many lives the man she loved destroyed.
I do not know how much of the story is fictional, and how much is based on papers left behind by Mozart himself (which Konstanze later edited and published in order to build a sense of financial security), but the speculation that Mozart had illegitimate children and died by poison at the hands of a fellow Masoner who found his wife seduced by the musician is certainly a possibility, and an entertaining one at that. Regardless of Konstanze's feelings toward her late husband, if she had simply thrown his stacks of compositions and correspondence into the fire, history would have been denied much. An artist who struggled to earn a living for his family during his lifetime has been turned into one of the greatest legends of all time, and I suspect most of that is owed to the sheer practicality of his widow.
I've always adored Mozart's "Requiem", and the dramatization of his death surrounding the composition of it in "Amadeus"made it that much more heart-rending for me. At one point, Waldron writes a scene in which Mozart acknowledges the requiem he is writing is for himself, and cries during attempts to create the "Lachrymosa". (the last part of the "Requiem" most scholars agree Mozart completed completely on his own.) This scene shook me, because it is perhaps the most musically powerful piece ever composed by someone who spent so much of his gift creating entertaining stories and bawdy farces. It is at the very end of his life, you see and hear the true genius that was perhaps never entirely discovered.
I had to look through 20 "free" Kindle books to find something as well-written, well-researched, and engaging as this novel. Fans of Phillipa Gregory, Juliet Grey, Antonia Fraser, and Alison Weir will all enjoy this work. In fact, I just downloaded "My Mozart", in order to read the story from the perspective of one of the book's relatively minor (yet important) characters.
If there isn't one in existence yet, I'd love to read a book based on the story of Elise, the redheaded chambermaid. :)
All in all, one of the best indie authors I've run across in some time. This review was featured on my blog today, so that says something. :)"
Alayna-Renee (5 out of 5 stars)