book cover of Empty Theatre

Empty Theatre

A novel by

A wildly over-the-top social satire reimagining the mad misadventures of the iconic royal cousins King Ludwig and Empress Sisi, from the incomparable Jac Jemc.

History knows them as King Ludwig II of Bavaria and Empress Elizabeth of Austria, icons of the late nineteenth century who died young and left behind magnificent portraits and palaces. But to each other they were Ludwig and Sisi, cousins who shared a passion for beauty and a stubborn refusal to submit to the roles imposed upon them.

Ludwig, simultaneously spoiled and punished for his softness and "unmanly" interests, falls hard for the operas of Richard Wagner and neglects his state duties in the pursuit of art. Sisi, married at the age of sixteen to her beloved Franzl, bristles at the restrictions of her elevated position, the value placed on her beauty, and the simultaneous expectation that she ravage her body again and again in childbirth. Both absurdly vain, both traumatized by the demands of their roles, Sisi and Ludwig struggle against the ideals they are expected to embody, and resist through extravagance, petulance, performance, and frivolity.

A tragicomic tour de force,
Empty Theatre immerses readers in Ludwig and Sisi’s rarefied, ridiculous, restrictive world—where the aesthetics of excess belie the isolation of its inhabitants. With wit, pathos, and imagination, Jac Jemc takes us on an unforgettable journey through two extraordinary parallel lives and the complex, tenuous friendship that linked them.

Genre: Historical

Praise for this book

"Jac Jemc's dreamscape of a novel weaves history and imagination into a wonder world. Empty Theater is an ingenious and totally absorbing gambol through beauty, decadence, and the bizarre absurdities of lives spent in the dizzying clouds of royalty and pomp. Jemc is a writer of enviable talent and soulful intelligence." - Samantha Hunt

"A brilliant, outrageous, page-turning social satire. The mad isolation and aesthetic bubble the royalty lives in become, through Jac Jemc's glorious retelling, something so darling and vulnerable and, at the same time, monstrously idiotic. Oh, reader, you will follow the tragic paths of these monarchs as they chase melodies and butterflies to their graves, and feel yourself to be so much richer and freer afterward." - Heather O'Neill

"A brilliantly and sensitively crafted novel, both epic and intimate in scope. I was captivated from the very first line." - Morgan Thomas

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