July 23, 2009

The Last Waltz by G. G. Vandagriff

Review by Susan

In The Last Waltz, G. G. Vandagriff departs from her well-known series of genealogical mysteries to craft a sweeping historical drama. The story begins in Vienna just before World War I where Amalia Faulharber is an Austrian young socialite whose Prussian baron fiancé breaks their engagement to return home to prepare for war. How she responds to this disappointment leads her in directions she could not have anticipated. Her journey to maturity takes her through horrific experiences during World War I, changed family fortunes afterward, a growing interest in democracy and political freedom, and choices between two men who love her. She becomes a strong, loyal woman of strength in the face of the gathering storms preceding another war.

This is a book of substance and complexity that is still very readable. One of the themes that impressed me the most was that of being true to the light that is within us no matter what darkness lies around us. During Amalia’s darkest days during World War I, her good friend and mentor from the Catholic hospital where she volunteered brought Amalia back from a dark abyss with these words: “The price we pay for immortality is to know both this darkness and the light and to choose between them. You are a particularly radiant person. You must not let the darkness win, Amalia.” How Amalia uses the light within her to combat the darkness is a story well worth reading.