About the Book:
Title: Shadows of an Empress
Author: Carole Waterhouse
Publisher: Anaphora Literary Press
Genre: Literary Fiction
After the death of her mother, Sylvia is sent to live with her grandmother on an isolated piece of farmland, where she and a nymph-like companion run through the woods creating an imaginary world where her mother is still alive. When Sylvia marries Dan, everyone sees her life moving from tragic to fairy tale. But when a recurring dream about a city she can’t identify leaves Sylvia feeling especially unsettled, she goes into her living room on a sleepless night and finds the Empress Elisabeth of Austria waiting for her.
Suspecting their lives are somehow linked, the empress helps Sylvia sort through her past and question her present. She and Sissi, Elisabeth’s younger version, embark on a whirlwind tour of places related to the empress’s past where the Archduchess Sophie tries to arrange a courtship between Sylvia and Franz Joseph, a heart-broken Heinrich Heine laments the empress’s tendency to credit him as the inspiration for her awful poetry, and Sigmund Freud offers commentary on their journey. As they travel, Sylvia becomes more aware of the empress’s faults. As their paths begin to separate, Sylvia learns from Elisabeth’s mistakes and comes to realize that the answers she has been searching for need to come from within. In a mock ceremony in Vienna, Sylvia is crowned the empress of herself and returns home to start a new life with Dan. She understands then that the city she has been haunted by all this time is the life the two of them built, the one they are finally ready to enter together.
Shadows of an Empress is available at Amazon.Book Excerpt:
Sylvia turned up the radios in all three rooms—the kitchen, the bedroom, the workshop—the different locations making it sound as though there were three people talking, one an echo of the other. Still, it was his voice surrounding her completely, a sound that always gave her comfort. Dan, Dan, the music man. Her husband never realized the most intimate words he ever spoke to her had nothing to do with love.
The radios were turned up so high, she wondered how far his voice actually carried, for miles maybe, certainly as far as Zoe’s house. She came down once, laughing, turning them off, one after the other, diminishing the last to a faint whisper. “Why do you make him shout so?”
When Sylvia told her the reason, that she loved surrounding herself with the sound of his voice, wanted not to just listen but to be able to feel it in her bones, Zoe stopped and looked at her. “Don’t tell me after all these years you’re still in love.”
Sylvia could hear the envy in her voice. She suspected that Zoe, too, listened to Dan’s voice, knew what it was like to have it pulsate through her veins.
Dan, Dan the Music Man.
They had laughed at the name he was given, the repetition meant to sound lyrical, like one of the tunes circling in his head. Neither of them had ever expected that a radio show about music boxes would become nationally syndicated, even in a niche area like NPR. He was a celebrity in some circles, even if most people had no idea who he was. Zoe called him the most famous man no one had ever heard of, and, given the way Dan laughed when she said it, Sylvia wished it had been her comment instead.
“Music boxes can change lives. There’s no doubt. I’ve witnessed it many times.”
It was the voice she listened to more than the words, although she sometimes felt his comments were a secret code meant only for her. At the moment he was describing one of their own antiques, a real treasure they had acquired just a few weeks ago, the one Dan called the music box of his dreams.
It was actually a large automaton with rows of horses that would race across the front as the music played, the device designed so that the winning horse was randomly selected. She knew why he prized it, that it wasn’t just the box itself, as exquisite as it was, but the way it represented their lives together, fitting in perfectly with the Victorian farmhouse, the real horses she loved so, a true home where husband and friend were never far away.
About the Author
A professor of creative writing at California University of Pennsylvania, Carole Waterhouse has an MFA in fiction writing from the University of Pittsburgh and a Ph.D. in 20th Century Literature from Ohio University. She’s the author of three novels, Shadows of an Empress, The Tapestry Baby, and Without Wings, as well as a short story collection, The Paradise Ranch. Her short stories have appeared in an anthology, Horse Crazy: Horses and the Women who Love Them, and numerous literary magazines, including The Massachusetts Review, The Artful Dodge, The Ball State University Forum, Crack the Spine, Blue Lake Review, Ceilidh, Eureka Literary Magazine, Crossconnect, Spout, The Styles, Turnrow, Half Tones to Jubilee, Potpourri, The Baybury Review, Arnazella, Parting Gifts, Pointed Circle, Seems, The Rockhurst Review, Oracle, andThe Griffin. She has reviewed books for The Pittsburgh Post Gazette, The Pittsburgh Press and The New York Times Book Review.
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