Monday, April 26, 2010

Book Review: The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire by C.M. Mayo



From the Publisher's Website:

The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire is a sweeping historical novel of Mexico during the short, tragic, at times surreal, reign of Emperor Maximilian and his court. Even as the American Civil War raged north of the border, a clique of Mexican conservative exiles and clergy convinced Louis Napoleon to invade Mexico and install the Archduke of Austria, Maximilian von Habsburg, as Emperor. A year later, the childless Maximilian took custody of the two year old, half-American, Agustín de Iturbide y Green, making the toddler the Heir Presumptive. Maximilian’s reluctance to return the child to his distraught parents, even as his empire began to fall, and the Empress Carlota descended into madness, ignited an international scandal.

This lush, grand read is based on the true story and illuminates both the cultural roots of Mexico and the political development of the Americas. But it is made all the more captivating by the depth of Mayo’s writing and her understanding of the pressures and influences on these all too human players. Her prose makes the reader taste the foods, smell the spices and flowers and feel the heat of Mexico. Mayo writes for the senses. And for the ages. The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire is a story both sweeping and intimate, of geopolitics, the glamour of royalty, and the grit of military command, of the arrogance of power, the dark labyrinths of ambition, and, above all, of a child who was not, in the end, a prince, but a little boy who belonged to his parents.

About the Author:

C. M. Mayo has been living in and writing about Mexico for many years. Her story collection, Sky Over El Nido, won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. She is also the author of a widely acclaimed travel memoir and is an avid translator and editor of contemporary Mexican literature.








My Opinion:

I have to admit to a woeful lack of knowledge about Mexico's history. That is part of what drew me to this book in the first place. Being someone who is drawn to historical novels but who usually chooses books written about European countries this was going to be a learning experience for me.

I am so very glad I decided to learn as I have found a new favorite book.

The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire tells the tale of Augustin de Inturbide y Green and so much more. After the French had invaded and managed to exert some control over Mexico they needed a ruler of some kind for the people of Mexico to look up to. They went to Maximillian von Hapsburg the Archduke of Austria and offered him the crown and title of Emperor of Mexico.  Maximillian is a very interesting figure in history; as he comes through in the novel he did not lack for self confidence. But in order to rule Mexico he had to give up his rights as a Hapsburg and this troubled him mightily - to the point that three days before he was due to leave for his new country he changes his mind and refuses the crown.  He wife Charlotte, hungry for power, and from a long line of rulers herself fights hard for Maximillian to accept the crown finally convincing him to do so. He signs the so called "Family Pact" giving up his claim to the Hapsburg throne.

Maximillian's rule was more about protocol and appearances than about actually making Mexico a thriving country. As unrest started to build he started looking for ways to quell it and so turned to the former "Liberator's" family - the Inturbides.  The Liberator had been executed and his family had been living in exile; some in Philadelphia, some in Georgetown.  Angelo de Inturbide was part of Mexico's diplomatic corps and attending a party at the White House when he meets Miss Alice Green.

Alice Green is the youngest daughter of a slightly impoverished but good family living on a "country estate" called Rosedale. Her family tree included General Uriah Forrest who fought with George Washington in the Revolutionary War amongst other well known American families.  It was love at first sight for both Alice and Angelo.

Neither mother was happy with the match but Alice's saw her daughter's happiness and came around. Angelo's refused to acknowlege it and never met her daughter in law.  Alice and Angelo head off to Mexico as his career dictated. Alice is at first discomfited but soon adapts to life in a new country. Now Alicia she soon learns the language and the customs. She is still a bit of a social climber and she does not get along well with her sister in law who thinks she is beneath her.

Soon young Augustin is born and all seems well. But as Augustin reaches his second birthday Maximillian's
reign is truly experiencing struggles. He feels threatened by the presence of the Inturbides in Mexico.  He comes up with the plan to make young Augustin his Heir Presumptive.

I don't want to give away too much. I probably have already but I feel like I could write about this book all day and beyond. It is THAT good. I found myself so involved in the lives of the characters I now want to go and research and learn more about Mexico's history. From reading the afterward in the book the author had to do quite a bit of research to write this book because as fascinating as this tale is most history books relegate it to mere snippets. I love when a book fires my interest to the point that I want to learn more and more and more.

Ms. Mayo is writing a sequel concentrating on Augustin's adult life and I cannot wait to get my hands on it.

The writing style is easy to read, draws you in and you don't want to leave. I have learned and been entertained all at the same time. What more can you ask of a book. This is one that will stay in my library to be read again.

The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire is available at Amazon.com
















Disclosure:  I received a gratis copy of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire from Unbridled Books for review. Any opinions expressed are my honest opinions and were not impacted by the receipt of the free book. I received no monetary compensation for this post.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting review. I haven't read this book, nor do I know much of Mexican history. I am currently reading The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea and it is set in Mexico about 1880. I am enjoying it immensely.

    ReplyDelete

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