The story of the Trotta family is a stand-in for the end of the Habsburg monarchy. As a lieutenant in the army the grandfather saves the emperor's life in the battle of Solferino and is raised from a commoner's situation to a barony. His son would like to enter the army, but is forbidden by his father and does duty as a civil servant. He in turn drives his son into an army career that does not at all fit him. Trapped in circumstances he cannot break out of, the grandson's life spirals downwards and reflects the imminent decay of the empire itself.
The execution achieves it's aim brilliantly. It paints a portrait of a era that has lost vitality and purpose. However for long stretches I felt disconnected from the story. For some parts of the book I switched to an audio version, which embodied the text perfectly with it's slight Austrian tinge and a very measured pace.
The rating reflects a 4 for execution and a 3 for enjoyment.