Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Madensky Square

Susanna Weber is renowned for producing the most elegant, exquisite couture in Vienna. As all of fashionable society passes through her fitting room, Susanna touches numerous lives as matchmaker, comforter, confidante...and passionate lover.

From the improverished yet proud Countess von Metz, to Nini the volatile Hungarian anarchist; from Sigismund Kraszinsky, the young musical prodigy, to Susanna's hidden lover himself, Eva Ibbotson conjures up a perfect miniature of a vanished society. But while the world hurtles towards war, the secrets and sorrows which lie behind Susanna's bewitching charm emerge as she and her friends live out the last, glittering days of Imperial Vienna in the idyllic surroundings of Madensky Square.

There have been a lot of Eva Ibbotson books that I've really liked. I hadn't even heard of this one until Shannon Hale mentioned it and recommended it on her blog (a fact that I now find surprising). I really disliked this book. It's not that I didn't enjoy the writing style. The setting, which is always the highlight of an Eva Ibbotson book, was fabulous. I loved reading about Vienna and the way the people mention famous composers like they are close neighbors and friends.

No, the real problem I had with this book was subject material. Susanna is a mistress and her best friend is also a mistress. This fact is woven so tightly through the plot that there's no escaping it and it just drove me crazy and got under my skin. The men! How unfaithful and cowardly! None of them ever tell their wives and their wives never find out. And Susanna and her friend feel so lucky and privileged to be objects of pleasure without having the responsibilities of being wives and mothers. Oh it just bothered me. I felt over and over that Eva Ibbotson was making a statement that women only have worth if they are sleeping with someone. 

If only the other plotlines had been enough to distract me from the things that bothered me, but they weren't. Everything else felt canned and uninteresting. Eva Ibbotson does a lot of repeating of elements in her books. At first it didn't bother me, but now that I've read 5 or 6 of her books it's really starting to bug me that she can't come up with some new material. This will be my last book by her for a while.

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