In his latest novel, Dan Jacobson melds historical fact and fiction in a compelling tale of love, lust, mania, sorrow, and isolation that chronicles two very real characters and the impossible situation they get themselves into.
All for Love is the story of Princess Louise, daughter of King Leopold II of Belgium (the subject of another book I'm eager to read), and her disastrous love affair with Géza Mattachich, a low-ranking Croatian cavalryman.
Using contemporary sources, including but not limited to Louise and Mattachich's memoirs, as well as Gerd Holler's 1991 biography of Louise (Louise von Sachsen-Coburg: Ihr Kampf Liebe und Glück), Jacobson begins to piece together Louise and Mattachich's story. He then uses his skills as a novelist to flesh the story out, weaving fictions and half-truths to create a fullbodied account of those pre-World War I years.
The novel's author's note is a must read.
If anything Jacobson may err on the side of being too true to fact (he peppers the novel with references to his sources and historical footnotes). However, despite the somewhat staid academic nature of the novel, it is full of gems including this passage which stuck me quite forcefully:
People are what they do. They are what they say. They are what they want. They are what they remember and what they have forgotten; the motives they reveal and the motives they try to hide. They are their bodies, their voices, the movements of their eyes and hands. Beneath these and other such manifestations of selfhood, it is impossible to go. The 'reasons' why people are as they are will always remain hidden, not only from outsiders but from themselves too. (5)All for Love was long-listed for the 2005 Man Booker Prize. The first American edition was released in September.