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Napoleon & Josephine

Review

Napoleon & Josephine

In 1777, a young Rose Tascher de la Pagerie celebrates her fourteenth birthday on the French West Indian island of Martinique. On the evening of her special day, Rose and her favorite cousin Aimee ask to have their fortunes told by an aged sorceress. Rose is told that she will be unhappily married and widowed, but that she will be more than a queen. The two girls are baffled by this prediction.

Meanwhile, Rose's dear father Joseph is awaiting the decision of a bright future for one of his three daughters. His sister Edmee has written from Paris with a proposition of a family-arranged marriage between her seventeen-year-old godson, Vicomte Alexandre de Beauharnais, and one of her nieces. Joseph doesn't want to part with any of his three daughters so soon, but he knows that it is perhaps best for one of them in the long run. After more than three months have passed, Alexandre's letter arrives and he chooses Joseph's second daughter, Catherine. Unfortunately, Catherine won't be going to France.

In order to secure his family's wealth and happiness, Joseph makes the difficult decision to offer his eldest daughter Rose as the next best choice for a bride for Alexandre. Even though Rose was the most likely choice, the agreement comes as a surprise to her parents. For Rose, however, it is just as she expected after that fateful prediction was made a year ago.

In 1779, a sixteen-year-old Rose arrives in France along with her father and her companion, Mimi. Paris and her husband-to-be are not what the frightened young woman expected, but nonetheless Rose marries Alexandre that December.

So begins a new life for Rose, and in most respects it's an unhappy one. With Alexandre's career, mounting debts and numerous affairs, life is nearly unbearable for Rose. Things seem to get better when her first child Eugene is born, but Alexandre leaves once again, this time on a pleasure tour of Europe. In 1783, shortly after the birth of her daughter, Hortense, Rose is presented with separation papers. This is but one of many troubled times during Rose's life with Alexandre.

The French Revolution begins around 1788, and Rose soon finds herself enduring much more than that of her previous marriage. When she arrives back from Martinique in 1791, Rose sees that the France she once knew will never be the same. Her ex-husband is now the new president of the National Assembly and the path of the Revolution has been anything but easy. This fact becomes apparent when she and her family return to Paris. The city streets are filthy and many Parisians have to beg to survive.

Rose visits her best friend Fanny, and is told of the new dangers that lurk in France. If anyone is even remotely suspected of supporting the former monarchy, they are sent to prison and most often sentenced to death. The year that follows gives Rose reason to be fearful for the safety of her family. In March 1794, the new Republicans overthrow the National Assembly and send its president to the Carmelite prison. The next month, after a letter from Alexandre is discovered during a night search, Rose is arrested for treason and sent to the convent of the Carmelites, known as Les Carmes.

When Rose is released in August 1794, it seems she can finally have a normal life with her family. Her life, however, is changed once again when she has a chance meeting with the general Napoleon Bonaparte in 1795. The general's presence interests and disturbs her. Upon visiting Rose again, Napoleon is further enchanted by her and proposes marriage.

Rose refuses his proposal, telling him that this is not a part of her destiny. Napoleon doesn't believe so and begins courting her. Rose must finally give in to the fact that she cares for Napoleon's affections, despite his bizarre behavior. Napoleon decides to call Rose "Josephine" and the rest is history. As the reader will discover, this famous and infamous couple is far from perfect.

NAPOLEON AND JOSEPHINE is an interesting and informative book. It gives a good view of what life was like before, during, and after the French Revolution, as well as what life may have been like between Josephine and Napoleon. Their relationship, like the era, was both dark and colorful. Even though I wonder how Josephine put up with Napoleon's temper and whims, some of the infamous general's antics are quite humorous, to say the least.

Reviewed by Sarah Sawtelle on October 18, 2011

Napoleon & Josephine
by Gerald Hausman and Loretta Hausman

  • Publication Date: October 1, 2004
  • Genres: Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Orchard
  • ISBN-10: 0439568900
  • ISBN-13: 9780439568906