Wednesday, April 25, 2018

HFVBT Review: Ecstasy by Mary Sharratt + Tour-Wide Giveaway!!

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Pub. Date: April 10, 2018
Pages: 400

Genre: Historical Fiction/Literary


In the glittering hotbed of turn-of-the-twentieth century Vienna, one woman’s life would define and defy an era.

Gustav Klimt gave Alma her first kiss. Gustav Mahler fell in love with her at first sight and proposed only a few weeks later. Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius abandoned all reason to pursue her. Poet and novelist Franz Werfel described her as “one of the very few magical women that exist.” But who was this woman who brought these most eminent of men to their knees? In Ecstasy, Mary Sharratt finally gives one of the most controversial and complex women of her time center stage.

Coming of age in the midst of a creative and cultural whirlwind, young, beautiful Alma Schindler yearns to make her mark as a composer. A brand new era of possibility for women is dawning and she is determined to make the most of it. But Alma loses her heart to the great composer Gustav Mahler, nearly twenty years her senior. He demands that she give up her music as a condition for their marriage. Torn by her love and in awe of his genius, how will she remain true to herself and her artistic passion?

Part cautionary tale, part triumph of the feminist spirit, Ecstasy reveals the true Alma Mahler: composer, daughter, sister, mother, wife, lover, and muse.

What Did I Think About the Story?

Ecstasy is my first experience with Mary Sharratt's novels, although I have a few others on my shelves, and I was blown away by the beauty and depth of the writing. I'm somewhat embarrassed to say that I wasn't familiar with Alma Mahler before picking up this book so had no preconceptions of how her story would unfold. What I found within the pages was a brilliant and passionate woman who, for years, put her own happiness on hold for a selfish husband until she was finally able to burst free to become the accomplished woman she was always meant to be.

My favorite aspect of the story would have to be the beauty with which it was written. It flows like music and Sharratt brings Alma's world to life with vivid color and dimension, painting this unique and colorful world with detailed strokes. This can be both good and bad as I really came to appreciate Alma's talents and became somewhat frustrated with what she put up with at the hands of her husband, Gustav Mahler, and the lack of support she received from her mother and stepfather.

It's been a while since I've read a work of historical fiction and yearned for the history to be different so a real life character would have a different life, but here we are. Sharratt  made me care for Alma in a way that made me feel like I wanted her, and other characters, to make different choices. For example, her parents raised her within this progressive artistic community but then forbade her from finding her own foothold within it, and then supported the notion of her giving up her own ambitions for a man who thought his own genius was more important than his wife's happiness and fulfillment. And Gustav...I apologize to any fans of his talent but, as a man, I found him to be just awful. The way he treated Alma was simply uncaring and cruel and, by the time he seemed to realize that he needed to support her, I personally thought it was too little too late. It made it worse for me that Alma even felt he was being selfish and hurtful but still supported it as a "dutiful wife" because his brilliance was so great. It was just so aggravating to me!

All this being said I was very happy to see that, with all the pain and loss she endured during her marriage to Mahler, she was able to eventually share her own talents with the world. The author includes a wonderful author's note at the end that fills the reader in on Alma's life after this story ends and I have to admit that I would love to read a novel about that part of her life (maybe a sequel? Hmm???). Either way I'll be on the hunt for more about Alma Mahler as Ecstasy has stirred me to need to learn more and I'm very excited to read more by Mary Sharratt!    

What Did I Think About the Cover?

This just so  happens to be one of my all-time favorite covers (I even picked it for a Cover Crush post)! Everything about it is simply stunning, take your pick!

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

Thank you to Amy at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing me with a free copy of Ecstasy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine alone. Continue below for more information about the book and the HFVBT!

Praise for Ecstasy

“In ECSTASY, Mary Sharratt plunges the reader into the tumultuous and glamorous fin de si├Ęcle era, bringing to life its brilliant and beguiling leading lady. Finally, Alma Mahler takes center stage, surging to life as so much more than simply the female companion to the brilliant and famous men who loved her. Sharratt’s portrait is poignant and nuanced, her novel brimming with rich historic detail and lush, evocative language.” – Allison Pataki, New York Times bestselling author of The Accidental Empress

“A tender, intimate exploration of a complicated woman, Mary Sharratt’s ECSTASY renders in exquisitely researched detail and fiercely imagined scenes the life of Alma Mahler — daughter, wife, mother, lover, and composer — and the early 20th Century Vienna and New York in which she came of age. I loved this inspiring story of an early feminist standing up for her art.” – Meg Waite Clayton, New York Times bestselling author of The Race for Paris

“Evocative and passionate, ECSTASY illuminates through its tempestuous and talented heroine a conundrum that resonates across the centuries: how a woman can fulfill her destiny by being both a lover and an artist.” – Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us and The Stormchasers

“Mary Sharratt makes a triumphant return to the page with this masterful portrait of Alma Mahler, the wife of the famous composer Gustav Mahler. Set in a time and place when a woman could only hope to be the power behind the throne, Sharratt brings a meticulously researched and richly illuminated account of a young woman who was a brilliant composer in her own right. Alma may have had to suppress her own talents to support Mahler; however, ECSTASY reveals that she was a woman who “contained multitudes.” ECSTASY is an important work of historical fiction, as well as a timely and topical addition to the canon of knowledge that needs to better represent important women and their contributions.” – Pamela Klinger-Horn, Excelsior Bay Books

“Alma Mahler’s unexpected, often heartbreaking journey from muse to independence comes to vivid, dramatic life in Mary Sharratt’s ECSTASY. Sharratt skillfully evokes turn-of-the-century Vienna and the musical genius of the era, returning Alma to her rightful place in history as both the inspiration to the men in her life and a gifted artist in her own right.” – C.W. Gortner, bestselling author of Mademoiselle Chanel

“Mary Sharratt has more than done justice to one of the most interesting, shocking, and passionate women of the 20th century. Overflowing with life and lust, ECSTASY explores this flawed but fascinating woman who was not only muse but a genius in her own right.” – New York Times Bestseller, M.J. Rose

“A deeply affecting portrait of the woman rumored to be the most notorious femme fatale of turn-of-the-century Vienna. Mary Sharratt’s ECSTASY is as heartbreaking and seductive as Alma Mahler herself.” —Kris Waldherr, author of Doomed Queens and Bad Princess

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About the Author

MARY SHARRATT is an American writer who has lived in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, for the past seven years. The author of the critically acclaimed novels Summit Avenue, The Real Minerva, and The Vanishing Point, Sharratt is also the co-editor of the subversive fiction anthology Bitch Lit, a celebration of female antiheroes, strong women who break all the rules.

Her novels include Summit Avenue, The Real Minera, The Vanishing Point, The Daughters of Witching Hill, Illuminations, and The Dark Lady’s Mask.

For more information, please visit Mary Sharratt’s website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


It's Giveaway Time!!

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a paperback copy of Ecstasy! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form HERE.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on May 18th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
Good Luck!!

HFVBT Schedule


Tuesday, April 10

Review at Broken Teepee

Wednesday, April 11

Feature at Passages to the Past

Thursday, April 12

Review at Bookfever
Review at Unabridged Chick

Friday, April 13

Interview at Unabridged Chick
Review at View From the Birdhouse

Saturday, April 14

Review at Clarissa Reads it All

Monday, April 16

Review at Cup of Sensibility

Tuesday, April 17

Review at Based on a True Story

Wednesday, April 18

Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Thursday, April 19

Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Friday, April 20

Review at Linda’s Book Obsession

Sunday, April 22

Review at Carole Rae’s Random Ramblings

Monday, April 23

Review at A Bookaholic Swede

Tuesday, April 24

Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Wednesday, April 25

Review at A Literary Vacation

Thursday, April 26

Guest Post at A Bookish Affair

Friday, April 27

Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Monday, April 30

Review at Caryn, the Book Whisperer

Tuesday, May 1

Review at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, May 3

Interview at The Writing Desk

Monday, May 7

Review at What Cathy Read Next

Wednesday, May 9

Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Thursday, May 10

Review at Writing the Renaissance

Friday, May 11

Interview at Writing the Renaissance

Monday, May 14

Interview at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, May 16

Review at Jorie Loves a Story

Thursday, May 17

Review at Nicole Evelina

Friday, May 18

Interview at Nicole Evelina



  1. Yeah, I am so happy that you enjoyed ECSTASY so much! Thank you for hosting Mary's blog tour, we really appreciate it!

    HF Virtual Book Tours

  2. Thank you so much for this beautiful review!

    1. Oh my gosh, 100% my pleasure! Thank you for writing such an enthralling story :)!