Reading this historical novel, set against the rich backdrop of Viennese opera in the era of Mozart, brought me back to the experience of researching and writing my own book The Violent Friendship of Esther Johnson, as Vienna Nocturne also explores the life of a real eighteenth-century woman about whom we know relatively little except for her connection to a famous man. So, I was immediately drawn to this novel.
In this case the woman is Anna (sometimes, though never in this novel, called Nancy) Storace, an English opera singer who performed on European stages. The man is Mozart, with whom she worked closely in Vienna and with whom she may have had a brief affair. Shotwell’s story brings the characters — pretty much all real historical people, though very little is known about some of them and fiction has to fill in the blanks — to vivid life. An additional layer of richness is added by the fact that Vivien Shotwell is not just a novelist but also an opera singer, so when she writes from the point of view of a singer like Storace, she is able to bring us right into her world — not just the world of 18th century Vienna but the world of the operatic stage. I found this to be an engaging and beautifully realized historical novel.