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Roxanne Reviews "Empty Theatre"

If you’ve exhausted yourself on the English royal family, why not give some other of our past majesties a whirl.

Jac Jemc, a professor at UC San Diego, has written Empty Theatre, a comprehensive historical fiction about the parallel lives of King Ludwig II of Bavaria and Empress Elizabeth of Austria.

I actually had to keep reminding myself that I was reading historical fiction as Jemc’s short- chaptered, oxymoron of an easy breezy tome reads like twin biographies, where Jemc braids the two ill fated but very similarly eccentric and rebellious cousins.

The recent foreign film Corsage turned me on to the couple’s story and led me into a deep dive for the real history, which is far, far different from the screenplay. Jemc’s book’s release is perfectly timed to not only give you facts, but to also give the characters life through modern dialogue that’s fun rather than stuffy. I found myself much like I did when watching the film Spencer, rooting for the rebellious stifled humans stuck in their overly constricted roles and families.

What’s more, we get fun tidbits of Ludwig’s crush on the composer Wagner and even Mark Twain’s sarcastic commentary on his life from across the pond. And the topping on the royal cake is the mystery behind both Ludwig’s and Sisi’s deaths.

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