"All for Love" by Dan Jacobson

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In "All for Love" Dan Jacobson fleshes out the illicit affair carried on by Princess Louise of the Saxe-Coburgs (daughter of ghastly King Leopold of Belgium and married to a secondary prince of Austria-Hungary) and a jumped-up Croatian cavalryman who claimed a spurious nobility. The torrid affair elicited royal and societal disapproval, with all the weight such disapproval carries.

The story Jacobson weaves happened to real people, in turbulent late-19th and early- 20th century Europe. Jacobson uses primary sources - stories written by the lovers themselves - and adds his own reasoning and imagination to present the tale in novel form. Or he says he does. This construct doesn't really work for me. It never rises above the documentary form, in my opinion, and Jacobson is never very far from the surface, and often breaks through the narrative to address the reader directly.

The strong points here: we get knowing and compassionate protraits of flawed, spoiled, self-centered people, and follow their exploits to their logical ends: scandal, bankruptcy, fugitive flight, still more bankruptcy. At length we must take Louise and the cavalryman (Geza Mattachich by name) and their devotion at face value. Through desparate flight, imprisonment on both sides, his dalliances with other women, and all the notoriety attending, they never become estranged, never stop to wonder why they got together in the first place.

This is a diverting romp with two flawed and self-important lovers who remain true to each other.
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