The Last Waltz
“Intriguing ... This gripping novel sets the tone of one of the worst wars of our time.” — Holly Newton, Meridian Magazine
In December 1913, the city of Vienna glitters with promises of the future for sought-after debutante Amalia Faulhaber. But life takes a dramatic turn when simmering political unrest escalates into the most deadly war the world has ever known. Amalia is devastated when her fiance, Baron Eberhard von Waldburg, breaks off their engagement to return to his native Germany and obligatory military service. But she soon discovers that her passion for democracy in an increasingly fascist world has put everything she loves in danger. Her family torn apart and impoverished by the war, Amalia must now choose between an idealistic young Polish doctor, who shares her political views, and the wealthy Baron von Schoenenburg, an Austrian Cabinet minister who promises to provide safety and security in a violent, tumultuous time. Reminiscent of Gone with the Wind, this epic novel explores the nature of human character and the elusive search for love and peace.
By Joan, Submitted on 2015-02-25
I thoroughly enjoyed reading G.G. Vandagriff's novel "The Last Waltz." Amalia's personal struggles, which took place over several decades,seemed very real to me as they were set amid political struggles involving World War I and beyond. The story itself was very compelling--I was immediately drawn into a chaotic world of love and war--an interesting juxtaposition. I kept reading if only only to discovered how the story would end. But along the way I encountered several themes which ran throughout the novel. What does it mean to be in love? Is it true that you can give yourself completely to another person only once, as Amalia's uncle states? What does it mean to be part of a family--especially when family members keep secrets? How can one find strength to make good choices and persevere in the face of adversity? How can we avoid the tragedy of becoming, as one character says, "less than we were born to be"?
Norman Mailer wrote the following: "I feel that the final purpose of art is to intensify--even, if necessary, to exacerbate--the moral consciousness of people. In particular, I think the novel at its best is the most moral of the art forms." I think "The Last Waltz" confirms Mailer's statement: It asks us to look inside ourselves and to examine the state of our own moral consciousness.
By Susan, Submitted on 2015-02-25
I am so glad the author was able to recover this manuscript and get it to the world. It was worth every penny and every word. I was captivated by the characters, loved the authentic feel of the times (I was there!), and dearly appreciated both her writing style and the quality of her work. In my humble opinion, I not only believe this is Sister Vandagriff's best work, it is the best fiction book written by an LDS author. Take the time to put aside the world and enjoy it! You won't be sorry.
By Stephanie, Submitted on 2015-02-25
Mrs. Vandagriff's book is full of history and rich storytelling. Her research and characters shine throughout the book.
The story starts with an engaged Amalia, an idealistic teen living in Austria right before WWI. Her fiance, a Baron who will help her family's social status, feels he can not be married and a soldier at the same time so he breaks off the engagement. Amalia is shocked and embarrassed and hides the breakup for as long as she can.
Almost immediately, two men seem to fall for her; one is a Baron and the other an idealistic Pole. Amalia is drawn to one through his kindness and the other through passion.
Amalia is still young and idealistic and makes a decision that will change not only her life but those around her.
With the outbreak of WWI, life becomes more complicated and tragic. Death seems to be around every corner and Amalia must learn to overcome the many obstacles in her path.
Amalia grows from a teenager into a strong woman who finds she can rely on the Lord and herself for strength and comfort.
Mrs. Vandagriff's story is full of history, romance and lessons to learn. Very well written and engaging! I found myself missing Amalia and her story when I closed the book.
By Suzanne, Submitted on 2015-02-25
It’s not very often that a fictional character comes to feel like an old friend. But that’s exactly how I feel about Amalia, the heroine of G.G. Vandagriff’s ‘The Last Waltz’. Ever since my high school visit to Europe, where I danced around the gazebo used in ‘The Sound of Music’ singing ‘I am seventeen going on eighteen’ (Yes, I was one birthday too many for it to be the perfect moment), I’ve had a fondness for Austria and its rich history. The Last Waltz didn’t disappoint in any way. It is a beautifully-written epic story of Amalia, an Austrian who seems to have a penchant for men falling in love with her. The romance portion is full of surprising twists and turns, while being grounded in the most gruesome parts of World War I and the ushering in of World War II. The true futility of war is highlighted, along with the power of love and strong character. There was a perfect balance of story-telling and description that allowed the reader to see the subtle contrasts between Austria and Germany while losing themselves in Amalia’s anguish. I’m sure I’ll never forget the poignant tale of this brave woman who loses everything without complaint, but perseveres—thinking only of others—to rise again to success. Vandagriff is truly a gifted writer. The amount of research put into the story is truly impressive. I highly recommend the Last Waltz to anyone, whether or not they consider themselves a history buff.
By Heather, Submitted on 2015-02-25
Modern teenagers of today might think people of early twentieth century Europe were a simple lot. After all, they rode in carriages, wrote letters by hand, and attended formal balls. The nobility did little else but gossip and discuss Parisian fashions. Yet, in GG Vandagriff’s newest novel, pre-World War I Austria explodes with intrigue, volatile politics that would eventually bring the Austrian people under Hitler’s rule, and a love story that proves that a woman’s heart is as vast as the ocean.
In 1913, Amalia Faulhaber is just nineteen years old, engaged to a Baron who will secure her family’s social status. Her life is predictable as she follows the pattern set by the aristocracy. Then her fiancé breaks their engagement, telling her he must follow his childhood dream and join the Prussian army. He leaves for Germany that same day. Amalia is devastated, but even worse, humiliated. She hides the break-up until she can deliver a valid explanation to her family.
Yet as she is struggling with feelings of being rejected, she meets two men. One is another Baron—an Austrian who promises to choose her over his country. The other, a Pole, who holds the same ideals as Amalia and haunts her dreams and every waking moment.
But a terrible misunderstanding drives Amalia to make a mistake that she will pay for a lifetime. Soon after, World War I breaks out, and Amalia is forced to face her ghosts and heal from tragedy. She copes by working as a nurse, becoming a witness to unspeakable horrors.
Her family loses their position in society and politics and war take over any hope of Amalia ever marrying for true love. Austria is thrown into chaos as various government ideals struggle for power. Family members are forced to choose sides. Fortunes are lost. Jews are persecuted. Amalia’s only salvation is developing a relationship with the Lord. And she must learn to trust again.
Before reading this book, I’d never given too much thought to those who lived in pre-Hitler controlled Austria. Of course, I’ve seen the Sound of Music enough times to understand that those who did not swear allegiance to Hitler were in mortal danger. Yet, the events leading up to this historical time were fascinating. The Last Waltz was truly an epic love tale, spanning four decades of Amalia’s life—following her through triumph and tragedy. She’d lost so much, yet came out so strong. And through all of her temptations she remained a virtuous woman.
If I was to nitpick one thing, I would have liked more time and attention spent on the literal last waltz that took place near the end of the book.
Yet, overall GG Vandagriff has a talent for immersing the reader in a different time and place. I was interested to read her biography and discover that she’d lived and studied in Austria. The Last Waltz is also a novel that was thirty years in the making. I’m grateful it finally made it to me.
By kersten, Submitted on 2015-02-25
This historical fiction book by G.G. Vandagriff is outstandingly written, full of marvelous detail and fascinating characters. I can tell that the author has researched her subject thoroughly and that she loves the characters she writes about. When I wasn't reading the book, I missed being immersed in her fictional world. It is a love story set in Austria/Germany/Poland during the tumultuous World War I and World War II periods where the heroine must make many heartbreaking choices that ultimately test her ability to survive and the moral fabric of her very being. GG does an excellent job of character development, making you care about and love her heroes and heroine. I especially love her heroine who is human, makes mistakes, and yet is someone you can respect and want to be like. Watching the heroine struggle through her enormous trials made me resolve to go through my own trials with similar faith and strength. The suspense is also high. I was sweating bullets for awhile wondering what the heroine would choose, but so proud of the decision she made in the end. I recommend this book for all women who love to be immersed in a love story full of rich detail and exciting drama with a satisfying ending. I am sad that the book ended. G.G., I'm a fan for life!
Kersten Campbell, author
By Tristi, Submitted on 2015-02-25
This novel is a well-written, well-researched look at the lives of those who were caught in the middle of World War I. I loved the characters, the storyline, and the descriptions of the places and times. I highly recommend this read.
By Anne, Submitted on 2015-02-25
I’m sad to have finished G. G. Vandagriff’s epic historical romance, The Last Waltz, and grateful for the splendid read. What a grand, eye-opening adventure! I feel like I’ve lived in Austria and Germany since Page 1 and enjoyed every minute of my visit.
This novel of love and war carries messages from which nations today could well take heed. Dangerous politics that produced World Wars I and II also brought immeasurable tragedies to individuals and families.
Along with heartbreaks come selfless heroics, and individual growth. And this to me is the theme of The Last Waltz. One piece of dialogue that stays in my mind is found on Page 206 when the main character, spunky young Amalia, asks her friend Louisa, “And what is the ultimate tragedy, then?” Louisa replies, “To become less than we were born to be.”
To quote from the back cover:
“In this gripping tale of love and war, a dazzling young socialite of the old world contends with deeply contradictory notions and personal crises to become a woman who would be extraordinary in any age.”
Amalia has to choose between a love so deep it refuses to die, and a different kind of love that holds her heart with loyalties born of sacrifice, devotion, and an iron will.
I highly recommend this book for everyone who enjoys soaking up history in foreign lands and at the same time getting teary-eyed over a wonderful love story. I can well imagine The Last Waltz as a breath-taking movie production that fills movie theaters worldwide.
From the publisher, Shadow Mountain: "The Last Waltz is a culminating work for the author. She started it decades ago during a study abroad in Austria and has been revising and researching it ever since. When she wasn't publishing one of the other half dozen novels she has published, she was working on this historical romance novel."