This reading group guide for The Accidental Empress includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Allison Pataki. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1) Though Sisi was often referred to as “The Fairy Queen,” this is not your typical fairy tale, in which a girl falls in love with a prince and the two of them live happily ever after. Could Sisi and Franz Joseph have had a happy marriage? Why or why not? How does Pataki’s novel take up the notion of “happily ever after” as it relates to the lives and marriages of the novel’s characters?
2) When Sophie learns of her son’s intention to marry Sisi, the archduchess has this to say: “She is not fit. It is as simple as that. She is too young—a child really, too giddy. Unable to fulfill the role and all of its obligations.”
What was it about Sisi that made her, in Sophie’s eyes, “not fit” for the role of empress and wife? Was Sophie at all correct? Why did Sophie prefer that her son marry Helene?
3) As eager as she is to marry Franz Joseph, Sisi quickly becomes overwhelmed and intimidate