“Life isn’t a fairy tale, Chautona. It’s joy and sorrow both. It’s the reality of marriage vows—better and worse, richer and poorer, sickness and health. There is no “happily ever after,” and yet the true ever-after is most definitely joyous. Life is a paradox.”
Those aren’t his exact words, of course. It’s probably been forty years since my father warned me about donning the proverbial rose-colored glasses. But that’s the gist of it. It’s one of the few things that he taught me that I never embraced as fully as perhaps I should have. As I say in my bio
An irrepressible optimist, Chautona sees everything through a kaleidoscope of It’s a Wonderful Life sprinkled with fairy tales.”
It isn’t any wonder, then, that when I saw the book, Not So Happily Ever After about King Ludwig II of Neuschwanstein fame, I snagged a review copy. I knew nothing of this man or his history and was eager to learn about the man whose creativity had inspired a man like Walt Disney.
Note: links may be affiliate links that provide me with a small commission at no extra expense to you. Also, I requested a review copy of this book. Opinions are my own.
3 Reasons This Book Will Make You Sad
Yep. This isn’t a happy book. I won’t pretend it is. While the facts inside are interesting, the story resembles more of a “Grimm’s” fairy tale than the less morose ones by Hans Christian Andersen.
First: His Childhood
A significant portion of the book is dedicated to King Ludwig’s childhood, and the stories broke my heart.
Second: Him being trapped in a role he didn’t want but needed.
One of the most heartbreaking things to me was that to be who he was most happy being, he needed to be King—or at least very wealthy. Unfortunately, he needed a life that allowed him solitude. Had he been able to be trained for something useful, he would have made a brilliant author and/or philanthropist-architect.
Third: He was so alone for someone who seemed to want faith.
From birth to death, I don’t think I’ve ever read of someone more alone. The man was surrounded by people—family, servants, members of state—but he both isolated himself and was cut off from others from outside, too. Several times, Ms. Braun mentions his acknowledgment that God was a part of his life, but he seems to have no comfort in that.
All in all, I just found the story horribly sad. It’s definitely a “not so happily ever after” story.
Despite it all, the story of King Ludwig II fascinates me, and I do intend to research him more. Additionally, I suspect many things as the source of his so-called madness, and I’d like to see what else I can learn.
With that in mind, this book was a decent introduction to him for someone who knew nothing but that someone built a castle in Germany once. In fact, I actually assumed it had been built centuries before Ludwig did it. I just found it difficult to read.
Look, I like dry history books. What others find boring, often keeps me riveted to the page. If this book had been just a history book about King Ludwig II, I think I might have loved it.
However, by the end of the preface, I was confused, and by the end of the first chapter, frustrated. The style is… odd. Facts are laid out, one by one, but written in the style of a fairy tale—yet without any storytelling. Ms. Braun informs the reader of the facts with an omniscient fairy-teller “voice” and a superfluity of exclamation points. I think I actually saw another reviewer who caught that, which made me feel a little better about noticing.
I mean, who notices exclamation points?
Here’s the thing. While this book was written for teens, it reads as if written for much younger children but at a slightly higher reading and appropriateness level. The result makes reading frustrating. Had it been a story alone… I would probably have loved it. Had it been a normal history non-fiction book, I would probably have loved that, too.
However, because it is a combination of both that consistently failed to keep my attention and often felt a little condescending. It wasn’t bad or great. It was just “okay.”
Recommended for folks who love Neuschwanstein Castle and Disney, and who aren’t bothered by a strong “telling” narrative. I would not recommend it for children under fourteen. Some of the content matter is just a bit much.
This book is on tour with Celebrate Lit.
About the Book
Title: Not So Happily Ever After
Author: Susan Barnett Braun
Genre: Young Adult
Release date: July 12, 2012
Think history is boring? Then you’ve never met Mad King Ludwig, who inspired Walt Disney with his magnificent castle in the clouds. He ruled the German kingdom of Bavaria for twenty-two years, inspiring his people by his support for the arts.
And yet, “Mad King Ludwig” rarely appeared in the capital or attended any government functions. He slept most of the day and stayed awake all night. Ludwig dined with his horse and waved pistols at servants. He created a fantasy world inside his castles, complete with caves and trap-door tables. To this day, no one is sure exactly what caused his untimely death in a lake.
Who was this man: fairy tale king? Insane eccentric? Mad King Ludwig’s life followed many twists and turns on its way to Not So Happily Ever After. The book’s intended audience is young adults, but it is perfect for adults wanting to learn more about Ludwig also.
About the Author
Susan Barnett Braun earned a BS in retail management from Indiana University and an MA in education from the University of Alabama. She taught for eight years in northeast Indiana, earning a Lilly Endowment Teacher Creativity Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Study Scholarship.
Susan has had work published in Parents, Children’s Ministry, and The Secret Place. She also writes online for Fort Wayne Visitor’s Bureau and blogs at Girls in White Dresses. She is married with three wonderful young adult daughters.
Susan enjoys reading, playing piano and organ, and spending her time with her family and pets (currently three rabbits and a chinchilla).
Guest Post from Susan
I first learned about King Ludwig II of Bavaria, Germany, while I was a high school German student. He fascinated me then, and he has continued to through several decades now.
Ludwig is a hero to the Bavarian people. In America, we too have our heroes: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln. But Ludwig was different. He was so eccentric and unusual that I found him impossible to ignore. As a teacher, I taught my students about this fascinating king each year. They, too, loved him. I decided to write Not So Happily Ever After so that teens could be introduced to Ludwig as I had been. However, since the book has come out, a majority of its readers have been adults.
What makes Ludwig so compelling? Oh, where to begin? There are many quirky anecdotes about him: he once invited his favorite horse to dinner in the palace, complete with china and crystal. Ludwig insisted on hiding behind large floral arrangements when he was forced to attend state dinners. He preferred to work at night and sleep during the day.
The king built wonderful castles.
His most famous, Neuschwanstein, inspired even the talented Walt Disney. If you’ve visited Disneyland or Disney World, the castles at those parks are the Disney version of Ludwig’s real-life home.
Ludwig has an air of mystery too, continuing to his still-unexplained death. “I want to remain an eternal mystery to myself and others,” he once famously said.
You’ll have to read the book to learn more. I can pretty much guarantee that this king, who has been dead now for over 130 years, will pique your interest. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if you decided to start planning a trip to Bavaria to see Ludwig’s castles in person once you finish reading …
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Real World Bible Study, January 4
Inklings and notions, January 5
Ashley’s Bookshelf, January 6
Genesis 5020, January 7
Rebekah’s Quill, January 7
All-of-a-kind Mom, January 8
Random Thoughts From a Bookworm, January 9
Bigreadersite, January 9
Carpe Diem, January 9
Just the Write Escape, January 10
A Baker’s Perspective, January 11
Mary Hake, January 11
Bibliophile Reviews, January 12
Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, January 13
Texas Book-aholic, January 14
Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, January 15
Janices book reviews, January 16
To celebrate her tour, Susan is giving away a grand prize of a world/globe necklace and a paperback copy of the book!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter. https://promosimple.com/ps/d8a1/not-so-happily-ever-after-celebration-tour-giveaway