My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Josephine Bonaparte began life as Rose Tascher, who was raised on the French colonial islands. We follow her life thru an arranged marriage to a cousin, several voyages back and forth from France to Martinique, the birth of her children, her fight for the revolution, her imprisonment and nearly her beheading. After her release, she creates a life among the politically powerful to whom she provides underground information. She is then introduced to Napoleon, a strange Corsican, with lofty dreams and aspirations.
In the first of a series of three historical biographies, Sandra Gulland brings to life this often forgotten woman of history, outside of her role as Napoleon’s wife. I knew NOTHING of Josephine’s background or her struggles before meeting and marrying Napoleon. The first person narrative is fresh and enlightened. Her descriptions of sea voyages, Royalist France, prison conditions and post revolutionary France are impressive. It’s hard to discern what is fact and what is fiction, but if her research is as impressive as her writing, I would think there was very little was left to embellish to create her story.
My only complaint, unlike the title, this is a biography of Rose, not Josephine. Knowing very little about the book (or series) I was expecting the story of Josephine and Napoleon. That comprises at the very least, the last half dozen pages or so of the book – and the subsequent two novels. As much as I enjoyed learning about Rose, my intent in reading this was to learn about Josephine, the Empress.
Also, because of my schedule, I had put this book down in the middle of it for about 10 days – and when I picked it back up, I had a hard time remembering ALL the characters and their relationship to Rose – Desiree, Marie, Lucie, and every revolutionary figure in her circle. I don’t think it really detracted from the story, but it was confusing for me nonetheless.
This is a beautiful story of a triumphant woman who fulfills her destiny.
For a pictorial collage on Josephine, view the attached video:
Book source: personal copy
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This was one of my original selections for the Women Unbound reading challenge.
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