An American in Vienna
Reviewed by Vicki Landes for ReaderViews (6/11)
What would you do if you suddenly found out that your ancestors were of European nobility yet left their life of wealth and privilege to live as commoners in America? And, that despite all attempts to find answers you came up with only more questions? Could you live with not knowing or would the call of secrets from a faraway land be too difficult to resist?
“An American in Vienna” begins by introducing protagonist Andy Bishop, a young man from Ohio with mysterious roots in Austria. Although fresh out of college, he’s ready to jump into a new research project – answer the question of why his aristocrat ancestors left their homeland. The investigation starts innocently enough but quickly takes a backseat when Austria is thrust into the First World War. Instead, he begins to put his journalistic training to work as he begins writing on the war and local attitudes under the byline ‘An American in Vienna.’ With his Viennese family assisting his efforts and a beautiful Austrian countess distracting him from other matters, Andy’s trip has turned into a life-changing explosion of events. Will he escape the turmoil unharmed? Can he keep his family and new friends safe? Will he ever discover why his family left their life of privilege for America?
Author Chip Wagar includes quite a bit of historical information as he weaves his plot in and out of the real world events; he’s exceptionally thorough. 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. The story was a little on the predictable side but that may also come from knowing the history of this time period. Wagar tells his story in the first person, from Andy Bishop’s point of view. With that in mind, the language and its tone was what I’d consider ‘proper’ – the perfect way a nice young man from the early 1900s would think and speak. This made his characters convincing within the real world time period and events.
I think my only disappointment with the plot was that uncovering the family secret seemed to come as an afterthought. The very premise of his trip based on this secret but it seemed like it was treated as ‘no big deal’ upon its discovery. We don’t even get to know what Andy’s parents’ reactions were to the news and his mother had been searching diligently for this information for so long. Perhaps this was done intentionally to leave the door open for a sequel? I’m hoping so!
“An American in Vienna” would be an enjoyable read for those interested in historical fiction, World War I, and Europe. Its content is suitable for almost all ages and if anything, I’d rate it as ‘PG’. Altogether, “An American in Vienna” is an extremely pleasant novel – easy going and perfect for lazy summer days.