All For Love
In All for Love, Dan Jacobson brings to light a tempestuous turn-of-the-century affair amid the petty royals of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Princess Louise of Belgium, married young to a fat prince of Saxe-Coburg, falls in love with a dashing Croatian hussar. Defying discretion, she makes the lowly second lieutenant, Géza Mattachich, her stable master. The lovers are reckless and ignore all warnings. Soon the lover is exiled from Vienna and the wife is driven out as well. From there they begin an odyssey through Europe, overspending Louise’s generous allowance as they travel from city to city, with debtors and moneylenders snapping at their heels. The spree never wavers; when relations and friends financially abandon them, Géza resorts to forgery, which leads to his imprisonment, her abduction, and her institutionalization for “insanity.” The lovers are defiant, even through their separation. They consider themselves victims of a grand conspiracy, and they remain loyal to one another.
Such is the stuff of lascivious headlines and operatic drama, and, indeed, All for Love is an addictive read, but for one major flaw: Jacobson presents the story more like narrative non-fiction than a novel. The book contains footnotes and extensively quotes both characters’ autobiographies, and the author himself is a presence in the narrative. An opportunity lost, indeed: What an amazing novel this would have been, had the author taken the full imaginative leap into true fiction.