Saturday, August 31, 2013

Review: The Assassination of the Archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the Romance That Changed the World by Sue Woolmans

Received ebook ARC from publisher via NetGalley.
Release date: September 3, 2013

I have to admit, I did not know much about World War I or it’s causes. For starters, I don’t have much interest in military history and the First World War is often eclipsed by the infamous Second. To me, WWI was just an event that took place between the Victorian area and the Depression. I did not have any living relatives who fought in WWI like I do with WWII. While I had some vague knowledge of it involving the three ruling cousins of Britain, Germany, and Russia, as well as the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, I didn’t know much more beyond that. I knew more about the Scottish band named after him than I did of Franz Ferdinand himself.

This book appealed to me because its goal was to examine Franz Ferdinand’s personal life rather than focusing entirely on the politics; without the human side of history, a book will struggle to hold my attention. Beautifully written and easy to follow even if you’re somewhat new to the subject matter, this book accomplished its goal effortlessly. From what I could gather, the author’s sympathetic approach is new and unique and earned it the exclusive approval of many descendants of Franz Ferdinand. Although it paints Sophie as something of a saint, never putting a foot wrong and retaining her tact and dignity in the face of harsh and unfair disrespect and elitism, it is honest about Franz’s shortcomings, mainly that he lacked charm and had a temper only Sophie could calm. Both were attentive and loving parents, raising children who, just like Sophie, had better manners and more class than those of higher rank who constantly sought to remind them of their place.

The politics leading up to the war certainly weren’t left out and strongly addressed in the latter half of the book but the human touch of this really brought this tragic family’s story to life.

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