Sisi, Empress of Austria, often compared to the late Princess Diana of England, is the focus of Daisy Goodwin’s historical fiction The Fortune Hunter. When I realized this controversial historical figure was the same woman whose elegant posture and heavy hair, crowned with diamonds, graced the museum I had visited in Vienna, I found renewed interest in the tale, despite the sometimes halting period prose. Goodwin bases her story on real people living during the reign of Franz Joseph in the 1860s, including the hero and namesake of the novel, cavalry officer and horseman, Bay Middleton, who actually “piloted” the empress through the English hunting seasons for five years.
Goodwin manages a contrived happy ending for all , except the unfulfilled Sisi, who remains one of the most magnetic characters in history. If you enjoy historical fiction, the novel offers information and a glimpse into the world before World War I, when wealthy women used raw veal for their complexion and royalty, including Queen Victoria, still demanded backing out of a room in deference.