From an early age, women are taught that beauty is currency. It can open doors, especially when it comes to marriage and the availability of potential husbands. But what happens when a woman seeks more out of life than marriage and children?
Alma Mahler (nee Schindler) was a gifted composer and had the drive to potentially succeed. But in turn of the century Vienna, a gifted woman who wanted a career outside of the traditional world of being a wife and mother was an anomaly.
Alma’s story is told in the new novel, Ecstasy: A Novel, by Mary Sharratt. The books starts when Alma is in her late teens. Renowned for her beauty, Alma is sought out by men who are as artistic and passionate as she is. Though she lives in a world in which women are denied career opportunities because they are women, Alma is determined to be known as a composer. After receiving several offers of marriage, Alma married the much older Gustav Mahler.
Though Gustav loves her, he makes one thing crystal clear: Alma must give up her music. Though Alma is in love with Gustav and greatly admires his ability to compose music, she knows that must make a choice: her art or the man she loves.
I didn’t know what to expect of this book. Up to the reading of this book, I had not heard of Alma Mahler. I was not only impressed with the book, I was also impressed with the story of the book’s subject. It takes a strong woman to remain true to herself and her ambitions in a world that would deny her both.
I recommend it.