The Book – A Synopsis

If you love history, travel, romance, lush period pieces, great characters, an interesting story … then this novel is for you.

The history involves the last days of the Habsburg Empire in Vienna and its downfall after the assassination in Sarajevo of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife triggers the outbreak of the greatest war in Europe since the downfall of Napoleon one hundred years earlier.  History buffs will be surprised and entertained by the back-story of the political, social and even military situation of Central Europe and the Balkans that may be less familiar and therefore more intriguing than the better known situation of the Western European democracies of Britain and France, particularly to American readers.

The Palais Schwarzenberg in Vienna

The travel and romance is portrayed through the principal character, Andy Bishop, a young American who journeys to Austria to reconnect with distant relatives he has discovered through genealogical research, and his Viennese friends and relatives.  He arrives to the glitter and panache of imperial Vienna and finds himself the object of curiosity as he explores the strange and wondrous people and customs of the ancient Austro-Hungarian Empire.  His attraction to a young Austrian countess and his decision to remain in Vienna after the outbreak of the war leads him on a fantastic series of adventures in such cities as Budapest, Rome, Poland, and finally Paris while war rages.

Detail of Operngasse 4, the Austro-American Institute where I went to school in 1974

Some comments by professional and amateur reviewers:

I also loved his vivid descriptions of the places he sets his story – both the true-to-life details as well as the fictional additions.  As a ‘seven year resident’ of Europe I’ve visited most of the places Wagar describes, to include Vienna and the spot in Sarajevo where Franz Ferdinand was killed, and found the novel to be simply delightful.  It really took me back to the enthralling sights and sounds of Europe, even if the book was set almost one-hundred years ago …  by Vicki Landes for Reader Views

An American in Vienna is a very unique book.  There are three ways to approach Historical Fiction, live the life vicariously through other books and increasingly resources found on the Internet.  The second approach is write about an area that you spent at least a little time in; this allows you the luxury of being able to describe the location with a sense of ‘being there’.  The third approach is the rarest and always most effective; total immersion.  An American in Vienna is clearly written using ‘total immersion’.  The dead giveaways are found in the very opening pages.  It is the minutiae of everyday life that is mentioned …  Simon Barrett, Book Reviews, Blogger News Network

Time in Vienna, reflected in the Art Nouveau style of this clock at the Otto Wagner museum

An American in Vienna winds its way through one of the most remarkable eras in history – the passing of the “old world” and the birth of modern Europe and America. It’s like you are the proverbial fly on the wall as you are treated to a first-hand look at the Habsburg Empire as it teeters into collapse. The story is told by a young American who is visiting Vienna and is swept into the events that begin WWI. The novel is rich in detail but not bogged down by it. It covers some of the lesser known battles that take place on the Eastern Front as Austria and Germany battle Russia, and brings them vibrantly to life.  Bibliophilos,

Chip Wagar’s first novel offers a wonderfully detailed, suspenseful tale told from the point of view of a young American who comes to Vienna just as WWI breaks out. Aside from the young reporter’s experiences in Vienna, the plot moves to exotic locations, in wonderful detail and insightful knowledge of the national character of the Viennese and other Europeans. The historical background is meticulously detailed, but the whole novel is a fun read that is hard to put down. As one other reviewer remarked, the ending leaves the hope of sequel open. The colorful images of Vienna, Paris and other European cities swirl in your head long after you finish the novel — the sign of a great book. I loved it! Avidreader,

Above all, this is a story about people trying to live their lives in a time of radical change and even chaos. The main characters in An American in Vienna meet in unique circumstances and the love story that evolves against the background of this special time and place is inevitably affected by their environment. It is their story that gives the time and place its life force and, hopefully, recreates the feeling of what it was like to live then and there that a history book could never do.

© 2011

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