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When she married Napoleon Bonaparte in 1796, Rose de Beauharnais was a 32-year-old widow who had narrowly escaped the French Revolution's guillotine. She was six years older than he, notorious for her lovers, and unlikely to give him children, but possessed of the social connections and skills the ambitious young general thought would help him rise in the revolutionary arm When she married Napoleon Bonaparte in 1796, Rose de Beauharnais was a 32-year-old widow who had narrowly escaped the French Revolution's guillotine. She was six years older than he, notorious for her lovers, and unlikely to give him children, but possessed of the social connections and skills the ambitious young general thought would help him rise in the revolutionary army. He gave "his living reverie, his dream of perfect passion" a new name, Josephine--perhaps hoping it would blot out her unsavory past. Instead, she continued to be promiscuous as well as extravagant, and the marriage soured as Napoleon ascended to first consul and then emperor of the French. Yet he divorced her only in 1810, when political events made it clear he must have an heir. This highly colored biography practically wallows in Josephine's lurid personal life, colored in by luscious descriptions of the period's clothes, food, and amusements. The author, whose many previous books mostly deal with English royalty, does not burden readers with excessive doses of French history; the focus is always on Josephine, whose psychology is discussed at length. Erickson succeeds in making her subject an attractive figure, if hardly an exemplar of moral rectitude. Her book should appeal to those who like their historical biographies titillating and not too taxing. --Wendy Smith


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When she married Napoleon Bonaparte in 1796, Rose de Beauharnais was a 32-year-old widow who had narrowly escaped the French Revolution's guillotine. She was six years older than he, notorious for her lovers, and unlikely to give him children, but possessed of the social connections and skills the ambitious young general thought would help him rise in the revolutionary arm When she married Napoleon Bonaparte in 1796, Rose de Beauharnais was a 32-year-old widow who had narrowly escaped the French Revolution's guillotine. She was six years older than he, notorious for her lovers, and unlikely to give him children, but possessed of the social connections and skills the ambitious young general thought would help him rise in the revolutionary army. He gave "his living reverie, his dream of perfect passion" a new name, Josephine--perhaps hoping it would blot out her unsavory past. Instead, she continued to be promiscuous as well as extravagant, and the marriage soured as Napoleon ascended to first consul and then emperor of the French. Yet he divorced her only in 1810, when political events made it clear he must have an heir. This highly colored biography practically wallows in Josephine's lurid personal life, colored in by luscious descriptions of the period's clothes, food, and amusements. The author, whose many previous books mostly deal with English royalty, does not burden readers with excessive doses of French history; the focus is always on Josephine, whose psychology is discussed at length. Erickson succeeds in making her subject an attractive figure, if hardly an exemplar of moral rectitude. Her book should appeal to those who like their historical biographies titillating and not too taxing. --Wendy Smith

30 review for Josephine

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lois

    So I'm reading a biography of Napoleon and referencing this to cross check relevant info. I had forgotten just how offensive this biography was. The author portrays the slave uprising as horrific and worse than chattel slavery. Chattel slavery was awful and what the revolting enslaved peoples did to their former oppressors wasn't anywhere near as awful as what those oppressors had been doing to them for centuries. To focus on the violence of the revolt and not once mention the violence involved i So I'm reading a biography of Napoleon and referencing this to cross check relevant info. I had forgotten just how offensive this biography was. The author portrays the slave uprising as horrific and worse than chattel slavery. Chattel slavery was awful and what the revolting enslaved peoples did to their former oppressors wasn't anywhere near as awful as what those oppressors had been doing to them for centuries. To focus on the violence of the revolt and not once mention the violence involved in chattel slavery operations is both white supremacist and slavery apologist. Plus this author treats Enslaved West Africans as if they were exotic and sensual, not being raped, tortured and forced into such physically demanding labor that the average life span of an enslaved person on the islands was 3 years. She makes it seem like the enslaved forced the white islanders to leave. No, they refused to be enslaved anymore. The white folks could've stayed and done their own work but chose not to. They left when their stolen possessions were repossessed. This author acts like white people are 100% entitled to enslave West Africans while stealing from Indigenous peoples and should only rebel in ways that don't harm white people. Totally forgetting that enslaved folks fought through court systems and politely for years for their freedom. Finally, when they realized that white folks who hold West African peoples in bondage are incapable of being fair with them. They had to meet violence with violence. It was long overdue and exactly what the slave oppressors deserved. I'm only sorry more white slave oppressors weren't killed, including their wives and children. After all enslaved women and children aren't spared brutality.Violence is literally the ONLY language white supremacy understands. Black people are not human sacrifices who have to nobly sacrifice their lives and well being into infinity because white supremacists are incapable of humanity. No. Violence should be met with violence. That's why Armed Services are armed with weapons and not love. The author also utterly ignores how the wealthy in France were stealing horribly from the poor people. Poor people were spending 60-90% of their income JUST on food. That's not ridiculous and unsustainable. Why should millions starve so that the wealthy can have nice things they can't afford without stealing from poor people. I honestly am not sure this author is even a real historian. This is terrible. Yikes This is a hot mess. The beginning treats chattel slavery in an unbelievably racist way. Like enslaved west africans were: exotic, superstitious and amoral. The author's own words. Not sure how this racist support of white supremacy got past a publisher but I'm unable to use any of the info given. Any author worth their weight im shit would never portray chattel slavery in this repulsive and offensive manner.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Naomi

    I listened to the audiobook version of this. I spent the first few chapters confused as to why I was listening the a biography of some chick named Rose Tascher from Martinique. Clearly I was not familiar at all with the subject. I had to Google Rose de Beauharnaise to find out they were the same person. Derf. This was a really revealing story and so sad for both Josephine and Napolean, but not in the tragic, romantic way I had previously heard and partially remember from the tv miniseries in the I listened to the audiobook version of this. I spent the first few chapters confused as to why I was listening the a biography of some chick named Rose Tascher from Martinique. Clearly I was not familiar at all with the subject. I had to Google Rose de Beauharnaise to find out they were the same person. Derf. This was a really revealing story and so sad for both Josephine and Napolean, but not in the tragic, romantic way I had previously heard and partially remember from the tv miniseries in the 1980s. What a sad, rough life. It's not often you hear about how grasping and desperate the French nobility of l'ancien regime were.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Carolly Erickson has made a career of writing biographies of history's female royalty. Josephine tells the story of the legendary Josephine Beauharnais Bonaparte. Born of impoverished minor aristocrats who grew sugar cane on island of Martinique, Josephine, then called Rose, grew up far from the grandeur of the Paris of Louis XVI and Maria Antoinette. Her childhood was an indolent one, steeped in the magic of the Caribbean, and her formal education was mediocre at best. When it came time for mar Carolly Erickson has made a career of writing biographies of history's female royalty. Josephine tells the story of the legendary Josephine Beauharnais Bonaparte. Born of impoverished minor aristocrats who grew sugar cane on island of Martinique, Josephine, then called Rose, grew up far from the grandeur of the Paris of Louis XVI and Maria Antoinette. Her childhood was an indolent one, steeped in the magic of the Caribbean, and her formal education was mediocre at best. When it came time for marriage, the 16 year old Rose journeyed to France to marry Alexandre de Beauharnais, a wealthy cousin. Her early life in Paris, and her terrifying experiences during the bloody years of the Revolution, are vividly portrayed. But Josephine today is best known as the wife of Napoleon, and their relationship is generally believed to have been one of history's greatest love stories. Judging by Erickson's portrayal, it was anything but. It's true that Napoleon fell deeply in love with her, but at no time did she reciprocate his feelings. Both husband and wife conducted affairs on the side, and by the time he crowned himself emperor, his ardor for Josephine had dwindled, his treatment of her becoming rather cold. Erickson does an admirable job in conveying a sense of her multifaceted personality, and is especially effective when writing about Josephine's relationship with her two children from her first marriage. Her solitary years at Malmaison are covered, as are her travels in France and in Europe. Ms. Erickson has a pleasant expository style, skilfully breathing life into facts and events. Biography can be deadly dull, but Josephine is both informative and entertaining.

  4. 5 out of 5

    London SE4

    As they say, behind a great man there is a great woman. Josephine had a remarkable life, from her youth in luscious, exotic Martinique, to a loveless arranged marriage in Paris. We see her pulling through constant worries, lack of money, the French Revolution, prison and politics, children to raise and the execution of her husband, Alexandre de Beauharnais. A young widow, surrounded by rich friends and lovers, always elegantly dressed. she was not beautiful, but fascinating, full of grace and swe As they say, behind a great man there is a great woman. Josephine had a remarkable life, from her youth in luscious, exotic Martinique, to a loveless arranged marriage in Paris. We see her pulling through constant worries, lack of money, the French Revolution, prison and politics, children to raise and the execution of her husband, Alexandre de Beauharnais. A young widow, surrounded by rich friends and lovers, always elegantly dressed. she was not beautiful, but fascinating, full of grace and sweetness. She captivated Napoleon with her charm, although her frivolity and lack of deep interest for him, cooled Bonaparte's initial passion. Sensitive, prone to terrible headaches, scared to travel in a coach, and never fully accostumed to the cold and damp weather of France, Josephine was a great socialite and always a good influence on Napoleon's brusque manners and difficult character. Carolly Erickson's book is a good read for someone who is completely new to the subject. Fashion and social history between Revolution and Empire are richly detailed, and this is probably what I appreciated the most. What I didn't enjoy was her fictional writing style in portraying Josephine's private life, which made the character look like a fad and shallow woman, all jewels, tears, heavy make up, depression and headaches. All of this counterbalanced by an abusive and egotistic Napoleon, who will divorce his self indulgent creole in the end.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kate Lawrence

    Erickson is a fine writer who maintains admirable focus and pace in recounting an amazing life. She combines a sympathetic, almost novelistic style with solid research, documented in endnotes. Josephine's rise from an impoverished girl from the boondocks (the tiny island of Martinique) to the empress of France shows what can be accomplished with beauty and savvy social skills plus a fortuitous aristocratic connection. Despite her fame, glamor and wealth though, who would want to change places wit Erickson is a fine writer who maintains admirable focus and pace in recounting an amazing life. She combines a sympathetic, almost novelistic style with solid research, documented in endnotes. Josephine's rise from an impoverished girl from the boondocks (the tiny island of Martinique) to the empress of France shows what can be accomplished with beauty and savvy social skills plus a fortuitous aristocratic connection. Despite her fame, glamor and wealth though, who would want to change places with her and go through the unhappy relationships, betrayal, illnesses, danger from constantly shifting politics, imprisonment, near execution and constant debt she faced? Much better to sit back and read about it in an engrossing account like this.

  6. 4 out of 5

    MissSusie

    When I got this book I thought it was historical fiction, when it arrived it said it was a biography. So I thought ok but even as I was reading it I wasn't sure if it was a novel or a biography, it definitely reads like a novel. I guess I didn't know much about Josephine when I started this book but I always thought that Napoleon & Josephine had this great love story but according to this book that’s not the case. It was ok it did read like a novel at first then got a bit boring towards the end wh When I got this book I thought it was historical fiction, when it arrived it said it was a biography. So I thought ok but even as I was reading it I wasn't sure if it was a novel or a biography, it definitely reads like a novel. I guess I didn't know much about Josephine when I started this book but I always thought that Napoleon & Josephine had this great love story but according to this book that’s not the case. It was ok it did read like a novel at first then got a bit boring towards the end where I just wanted it to be over. 2 ½ Stars

  7. 4 out of 5

    Steena

    I do not have a large interest in Josephine Bonaparte but found this book easily digestible and a great source of interesting information on the one-time Empress of France. It was not, as I thought, historical fiction but a true biography. Much to my enjoyment it was a very descriptive and entertaining biography. I enjoyed the audio book immensely and might not have found it so engaging as a print read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nadine

    I think the author assumes too much. Her historical research here is questionable, but the book was readable nonetheless.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    I thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook. I think I was in just the right mood for it. I didn't know much about Empress Josephine, but I love reading about the French Revolution and I've always been interested in the Napoleonic Wars. Also, I have spring fever, so I think I would have enjoyed just about whatever I was listening to while soaking up the sun and the slightly above freezing March temperatures. There were a few drawbacks. I didn't love the voice of the narrator. My husband heard her readin I thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook. I think I was in just the right mood for it. I didn't know much about Empress Josephine, but I love reading about the French Revolution and I've always been interested in the Napoleonic Wars. Also, I have spring fever, so I think I would have enjoyed just about whatever I was listening to while soaking up the sun and the slightly above freezing March temperatures. There were a few drawbacks. I didn't love the voice of the narrator. My husband heard her reading once and said "Whoa, do you like that narrator's voice?" and I didn't, but it wasn't the worst I'd ever heard. Her pronunciation of certain French words really grated on me (in particular: "Hortense" and "Victoire" *shudders*) but overall, she was fine. Also, I think Carolly Erickson jumped to a lot of conclusions about what Josephine must have been thinking and how she was feeling at many points in the narrative. So I took a lot of what Erickson wrote with a big grain of salt. I also wasn't thrilled with how Erickson characterized middle age (she referred to it as "bleak"). That was depressing, but I got over it. As for the positive, I thought the pacing was good. I was interested in every section of the story, even the less flashy periods of French history. The section during the Reign of Terror was very exciting, as was the section during Napoleon's Empire. I thought Erickson did a great job helping us empathize with Josephine during the various periods of her life. 4 solid stars Other stray thoughts: -My family will be happy that I'm finally finished this book, so that they won't have to hear any more random Napoleon facts. -Only my five-year-old son was super into those facts. He wanted to know how many soldiers Napoleon had (because he sings a little song at his French school about Napoleon having 500 soldiers). I told him that Napoleon lost over 300,000 of them trying to invade Russia, so that history lesson turned into a downer. -Poor Josephine had horrible migraines and Napoleon often made her go horseback riding or host dinner parties while she was suffering from them. Napoleon sucked. -Josephine's first husband, when he was nineteen years old, initially wanted to marry her younger sister because Josephine was "too old" for him, at the age of fourteen. Her first husband also sucked. -Napoleon's coronation was a gong show. All of his relatives had tantrums because they wanted various titles like prince or princess and made a big fuss over everything. His mother was so offended over her title that she went off to Rome and skipped the coronation altogether. -One of my favourite anecdotes in this book was about how Napoleon loved to ride horses in a daring way, even though he wasn't a very skilled rider. He would often fall off his horse, and his attendants would wait in anticipation, worried that he was hurt. He would yell "I broke my neck!!" and then pop back up onto his horse, unhurt. Erickson just dropped this story with no other explanation. -I just learned that the narrator died when a flash flood trapped her in her basement and now I feel like a terrible person.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Julia B

    This is an excellent biography, about as far as you can get from a dry, dusty textbook. Erickson's book is full of vivid description and interesting detail. Before reading this, my only knowledge of Josephine came from reading a historical novel by the same author. I very much enjoyed it, and although it gave me some of the basics about her life, I wanted to know more of her true story. Josephine (or Rose, as she was previously known), lived a turbulent life, surviving deadly storms, prison duri This is an excellent biography, about as far as you can get from a dry, dusty textbook. Erickson's book is full of vivid description and interesting detail. Before reading this, my only knowledge of Josephine came from reading a historical novel by the same author. I very much enjoyed it, and although it gave me some of the basics about her life, I wanted to know more of her true story. Josephine (or Rose, as she was previously known), lived a turbulent life, surviving deadly storms, prison during the French Revolution, domestic abuse, and a host of other troubles. She is presented as a magnificently charismatic woman, and an enduring historical figure. Josephine was in influential woman in her own right, although most know her only for being Napoleon's wife. She was a popular, trendsetting woman for most of her life. She helped introduce her awkward husband into French society, and even after her divorce and his exile, she was admired in high ranking circles. The author obviously likes her subject very much, but I do not believe there is a strong bias or a narrow view of her character. Besides her charm, we are also presented with her excessive spending habits, her adultery, and other less admirable qualitites. The dramatic political and societal changes are also an important part of this work, and it is all fascinating. I loved reading about Josephine, and look forward to learning more about Napoleon, and about the French Revolution. I would highly recommend this to anyone who enjoyed Antonia Fraser's biography of Marie Antoinette. It has the same personal feel to it, and, especially because Josephine ended up inheriting the very rooms she lived in, you would arguable be reading about her successor in society.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    3.5 stars. Erickson needs a better editor. Several reviewers here say the style is that of a novel and I disagree. The style is very historical. What little dialog there is has been well-documented. Erickson does a good job pointing out when historical sources are not clear, especially in the footnotes. This gives the reader confidence that she does not embroider the truth. She retells events primarily from an outside, objective point of view, but secondarily from Rose/Josephine's point of view, 3.5 stars. Erickson needs a better editor. Several reviewers here say the style is that of a novel and I disagree. The style is very historical. What little dialog there is has been well-documented. Erickson does a good job pointing out when historical sources are not clear, especially in the footnotes. This gives the reader confidence that she does not embroider the truth. She retells events primarily from an outside, objective point of view, but secondarily from Rose/Josephine's point of view, which explains why servants have merely background roles. I'm glad I read this book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bryant Brown

    This book started off so well. Explained how well she maneuvered herself for financial and social gain. But she somehow turns into a victim. The tone of this book (and Napoleon books) should read... both of these people used each other for political and social reasons. Both created a toxic relationship. It’s lame to victimize someone who was REALLY awful to her husband at first.

  13. 4 out of 5

    JP

    Another solid look at an historic person and time period by Carolly Erickson. I knew nothing about Joséphine before reading this book beyond her name. I feel like it was a engaging view on her and her life told in the authors characteristic honest view.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Treasure

    Engrossing and captivating narrative nonfiction. The narration was okay but the narrator had a tendency to swallow the end of sentences, making it hard to hear. The book was excellent however, drawing out a broader picture of Emperor Napoleon and Josephine.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lorie

    Loved this bio on Josephine. Still thinking about her remarkable life..

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rob Markley

    Interesting but not particularly engaging insight into Josephine. She does not come out of this with much credit despite this being a sympathetic biography

  17. 4 out of 5

    Teri Holford Talpe

    Informative and kept me engaged. Would love to get Napoleon's personal take on it. Informative and kept me engaged. Would love to get Napoleon's personal take on it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Leora

    As a putting-me-to-sleep book it was sometimes too interesting.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Stefanie Robinson

    I really like all of Carolly Erickson's books. They are always well researched and well written. There are a lot of facts packed into the books, without being horribly annoying. I hadn't read anything about Josephine until this book. Josephine had an extremely interesting life, full of twists and turns. I love learning about European nobility, and am looking forward to learning more about her counterpart in Napoleon. This was quite a good read during the February portion of my 2021 Reading Chall I really like all of Carolly Erickson's books. They are always well researched and well written. There are a lot of facts packed into the books, without being horribly annoying. I hadn't read anything about Josephine until this book. Josephine had an extremely interesting life, full of twists and turns. I love learning about European nobility, and am looking forward to learning more about her counterpart in Napoleon. This was quite a good read during the February portion of my 2021 Reading Challenge.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ally

    3.5 STARS I bought this book at Books A Million a few weeks ago because A) it caught my eye and B) it was only $4.95. A used copy, of course, but let's be real here, half my books are used copies because I'm cheap. :P In any case, before I picked it up I knew almost nothing about Empress Josephine, or Rose Tascher, except that Napoleon deeply loved her, and that she spent more money than I will probably make in my lifetime. That being said, her life was quite interesting. Erickson does a good job 3.5 STARS I bought this book at Books A Million a few weeks ago because A) it caught my eye and B) it was only $4.95. A used copy, of course, but let's be real here, half my books are used copies because I'm cheap. :P In any case, before I picked it up I knew almost nothing about Empress Josephine, or Rose Tascher, except that Napoleon deeply loved her, and that she spent more money than I will probably make in my lifetime. That being said, her life was quite interesting. Erickson does a good job at portraying her sympathies to a woman who's life was constantly on edge. From her first husband's neglect and (I'm guessing) mental instability, to her imprisonment during the Reign of Terror, of which she only survived through luck, to her relationship with the Emperor Napoleon, one would think her story was a soap opera on modern television. Alas, according to Erickson, it was all too real. From my meager research, I know Josephine was not as enamored with Napoleon as he was with her. The abuse she suffered at his hands seems plausible, given his eccentric and driven personality. I can't blame her for wanting financial security, especially during a time when nothing is definitive. The time period which she lived, however much women flaunted themselves, ultimately left her with little choice but to stay. It is a shame that Napoleon's obvious manipulations caged her in such a way that the young, carefree, Rose Tascher of Martinique became the co-dependent Empress Josephine, a woman riddled with health problems (imagined or no), which was so different from the young girl growing up on an island. Erickson's writing was persuasive yet I noticed several flaws and grammar mistakes. Perhaps it was due to the copy that I bought (a second edition copy, I believe) but it wasn't just that. It might be because the woman she was writing about, and the people who influenced said woman's life, were so contrary that it was somewhat confusing and a bit difficult to understand. Ergo, 3.5 Stars. In short, well-written, though slightly confusing. Poor Empress Josephine. She was certainly a woman of her time.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Haley Mancini

    Okay. This book is interesting, especially when discussing the early part of Josephine's life until Napoleon, but once it endeavors into her relationship with Napoleon, it goes off the rails a bit, IMO, in that it tries overly hard to negate their love story. I'd question my own beliefs on this because I'm sure I can fall victim to romantic stories, but besides the well-documented primary and secondary sources describing their continual, albeit rocky, infatuation with each other until Josephine's Okay. This book is interesting, especially when discussing the early part of Josephine's life until Napoleon, but once it endeavors into her relationship with Napoleon, it goes off the rails a bit, IMO, in that it tries overly hard to negate their love story. I'd question my own beliefs on this because I'm sure I can fall victim to romantic stories, but besides the well-documented primary and secondary sources describing their continual, albeit rocky, infatuation with each other until Josephine's death (and really, until Napoleon's death--read some of what his companion until death, Count Montholon, transcribed from Napoleon's own lips towards the end), the author also neglects a very obvious tone in her derision of Napoleon. Yeah, the guy was seriously messed up (historians now believe him to have been Bipolar I), but even after promising his first mistress he'd divorce and marry her, he didn't, and even after his family members hounded him to divorce Josephine, he didn't. He only acquiesced after several of his advisors, who, in fact, were looking to dissemble his power, told him he needed a direct heir. They knew that if he sought a wife outside of France--especially an Austrian--public opinion of him would turn. That's exactly what they wanted. And the author neatly neglects that after Josephine's passing, Napoleon locked himself in his room and would not come out for days. On his deathbed years later, he imagined her spectre beckoning him soon, and he was beside himself with joy. And, famously, she was his last word. Anyway, I would've liked the book a lot more if the author gave the necessary merit to this side of the story; sure, Napoleon was a crazy ol' nutter, but he DID love Josephine for just who she was, not just what she could get him. She felt the same, in the end. It's just too bad their timing was a nightmare. But 5 stars for the first half! Very interesting.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Byron

    One of my good friends has had a long time obsession with Napoleon Bonaparte. He knows details about Napoleon that I don't know about myself. He owns some Napoleon memorabilia. He may even be Napoleon reincarnated... there is evidence to this effect. I went in search of a book about Napoleon and stumbled on this book. I decided it looked sufficiently interested, and since I knew absolutely nothing about either Napoleon or Josephine other than something about Waterloo, I put it on my wish list. It One of my good friends has had a long time obsession with Napoleon Bonaparte. He knows details about Napoleon that I don't know about myself. He owns some Napoleon memorabilia. He may even be Napoleon reincarnated... there is evidence to this effect. I went in search of a book about Napoleon and stumbled on this book. I decided it looked sufficiently interested, and since I knew absolutely nothing about either Napoleon or Josephine other than something about Waterloo, I put it on my wish list. It took a while, but finally I purchased the book and started reading. Well, in my ignorance about Napoleon and Josephine, I just got more confused. Fully 1/3 of the way into the book, neither Napoleon or Josephine was mentioned. The book was about some licentious woman named Rose who grew up thousands of miles from France and eventually moved to France to marry some dude named Alexandre, who became of leader of the French revolution. Finally, Napoleon entered the picture, Rose became Josephine, and my ignorance began to become awareness if not knowledge. All this goes to say that this book was informative and interesting, and has whet my appetite to learn more about 18th and 19th century Europe, and key figures like Napoleon. This book was only peripherally about Napoleon, and I am curious to better understand the political dynamics of the various nationalities and regions of Europe. The fact that Napoleon was actually an Italian, and that attacking Russia was the beginning of his end are pieces of information that seem worthy of better understanding. I recommend this book to those who enjoy learning about history through the biographies of those who created it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Simon

    Dull for the most part, and when you think about her subject, that's pretty damning. Erickson, who churns these kind of books out like a factory, gives Josephine's life the once-over-lightly treatment. Things that do not particularly surprise the reader: Napoleon was a difficult man to have as a husband. Ya think? Although I did laugh out loud at the sheer low-comedy of it all. Read the description of His Imperial Majesty on a horse trying to get Her Imperial Majesty in a carriage to jump a ravi Dull for the most part, and when you think about her subject, that's pretty damning. Erickson, who churns these kind of books out like a factory, gives Josephine's life the once-over-lightly treatment. Things that do not particularly surprise the reader: Napoleon was a difficult man to have as a husband. Ya think? Although I did laugh out loud at the sheer low-comedy of it all. Read the description of His Imperial Majesty on a horse trying to get Her Imperial Majesty in a carriage to jump a ravine on their way to a picnic. Then there is Erickson's love/hate relationship with her central figure. She keeps reminding the reader that Josephine was "charming" to a degree that apparently knocked people over on sight (and there is some evidence for that, check what happens with Tsar Alexander I when the Allies enter Paris in 1814, although to be fair, Alexander was sort of a drip), but then she has to put the knife in by basically describing Her Charming Nibs as kind of a whore with rotting teeth (the teeth fixate Erickson, who must be on retainer from Crest given the amount of attention she devotes to dental decay in the book). The best I can say about this is that it whetted my appetite for a decent biography. Any suggestions?

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lora

    I enjoyed learning about Josephine and Napoleon's life and about the social, political, and historical events of France during that time. The book made me more curious to read other author's works on the above subjects. Did not find the read dull, but was amazed at how marriage was viewed socially as compared to my present day "Christian" view. Erickson placed so many interesting facts about that time period. Tidbits included of interest were the social prison life, the macabre parties held by so I enjoyed learning about Josephine and Napoleon's life and about the social, political, and historical events of France during that time. The book made me more curious to read other author's works on the above subjects. Did not find the read dull, but was amazed at how marriage was viewed socially as compared to my present day "Christian" view. Erickson placed so many interesting facts about that time period. Tidbits included of interest were the social prison life, the macabre parties held by society after the revolution, the denouncing of the Roman calendar to make up the "revolution's" calendar, tidbits of how the men went off to war with women and children following themm, how a woman alone with two children survived those times in Paris is nothing short of miraculous! Most of all it was interesting to see how little Rose Tascher from Martinique became Rose Beauharnaise, Viscontess de Beauharnais, to Josephine Buonaparte, Empress of France! I enjoyed the read very much and was sorry to put the book down. Make sure you read Erickson's footnotes in the back. I suggest reading the footnotes at the close of each chapter that the footnotes cover.

  25. 5 out of 5

    mazohyst

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. For some really odd reason I thought Napoleon just had to be a romantic figure! Definitely not the case. Josephine lead an extremely interesting life, with a couple of rough spots here and there of course. At first I found her to be a bit detestable (she was a player) but when the tables turned and Napoleon became the player, I found her to be even more detestable! Despite her numerous affairs while being married to Napoleon, she had the nerve to be literally RAGING with jealousy once Napoleon s For some really odd reason I thought Napoleon just had to be a romantic figure! Definitely not the case. Josephine lead an extremely interesting life, with a couple of rough spots here and there of course. At first I found her to be a bit detestable (she was a player) but when the tables turned and Napoleon became the player, I found her to be even more detestable! Despite her numerous affairs while being married to Napoleon, she had the nerve to be literally RAGING with jealousy once Napoleon started to have affairs. I just... Jegus Christ, woman! You didn't love him when you first married him, why do you care now? Other than that, she seemed to be quite a charming lady. The writing was superb, at least I thought. It did not read like a stuffy stuck up biography but rather like a novel. Maybe I'm missing out on the real magic of true biographies but I enjoyed this book. Rose's/Yeyette's/Josephine's story will stay with me for a long time!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Frank

    I like history, but I don't like 800 page tomes full of facts and statistics written by and for college professors. What I like is to absorb my history second hand, like through a biography. I decided that my knowledge of the French Revolution and the Empire could use some shoring up, so I picked up this biography, which did a wonderful job through a detailed, but vivid and engaging account of the life of Josephine. There are about 50 Napoleon bios for every Josephine bio, but all the Napoleon o I like history, but I don't like 800 page tomes full of facts and statistics written by and for college professors. What I like is to absorb my history second hand, like through a biography. I decided that my knowledge of the French Revolution and the Empire could use some shoring up, so I picked up this biography, which did a wonderful job through a detailed, but vivid and engaging account of the life of Josephine. There are about 50 Napoleon bios for every Josephine bio, but all the Napoleon ones seem to focus on his military exploits. I wanted to learn more about the time, and the people, which is what this gave me. I'll admit that the first few chapters confused the heck out of me, because on page one, we're plunged into a hurricane on a sugar plantation on Martinique, and there's nobody named Josephine to be found. But it soon became fairly obvious, and then I was over that hurdle.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    I like history, but I don't like 800 page tomes full of facts and statistics written by and for college professors. What I like is to absorb my history second hand, like through a biography. I decided that my knowledge of the French Revolution and the Empire could use some shoring up, so I picked up this biography, which did a wonderful job through a detailed, but vivid and engaging account of the life of Josephine. There are about 50 Napoleon bios for every Josephine bio, but all the Napoleon o I like history, but I don't like 800 page tomes full of facts and statistics written by and for college professors. What I like is to absorb my history second hand, like through a biography. I decided that my knowledge of the French Revolution and the Empire could use some shoring up, so I picked up this biography, which did a wonderful job through a detailed, but vivid and engaging account of the life of Josephine. There are about 50 Napoleon bios for every Josephine bio, but all the Napoleon ones seem to focus on his military exploits. I wanted to learn more about the time, and the people, which is what this gave me. I'll admit that the first few chapters confused the heck out of me, because on page one, we're plunged into a hurricane on a sugar plantation on Martinique, and there's nobody named Josephine to be found. But it soon became fairly obvious, and then I was over that hurdle.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    This is the best biography of the three I've read. While it doesn't downplay the more scandalous behavior, it does not succumb to salacious gossip. This woman endured horrendous experiences, adapted to them, made them work for her, took care of herself and her children, and thrived in various alien environments. This all happened before she met Bonaparte. What she overcame could crush most people. She was an amazing woman who rose to the occasion. That's a bad pun because Rose was her real name. This is the best biography of the three I've read. While it doesn't downplay the more scandalous behavior, it does not succumb to salacious gossip. This woman endured horrendous experiences, adapted to them, made them work for her, took care of herself and her children, and thrived in various alien environments. This all happened before she met Bonaparte. What she overcame could crush most people. She was an amazing woman who rose to the occasion. That's a bad pun because Rose was her real name. Sorry.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sybil Lucas

    It was an easy book to read. I sort of lost interest towards the end. The writer fills up each page with very descriptive, believable imagery. It is that very thing that becomes tiresome towards the end. Each detail is fleshed out and brought to life - which can be a great tool in developing a story, but gets old pretty quick. I learned a great deal about this intriguing woman. I had no idea about her rich, troubled life in France. She was a true survivor and I appreciate that in a heroine or he It was an easy book to read. I sort of lost interest towards the end. The writer fills up each page with very descriptive, believable imagery. It is that very thing that becomes tiresome towards the end. Each detail is fleshed out and brought to life - which can be a great tool in developing a story, but gets old pretty quick. I learned a great deal about this intriguing woman. I had no idea about her rich, troubled life in France. She was a true survivor and I appreciate that in a heroine or hero. I would recommend.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Flor Blum

    The beginning was a little slow and a bit confusing. I kept trying to figure out when Josephine was going to pop up when I realized that she had a different name. I knew that Josephine wasn't her real name yet didn't figure that out quickly. I was discouraged by the portrayal of the relationship between her and Napoleon. They are viewed to have loved each other despite all the cheating. I definitely learned a great deal about Josephine and how she survived the French Revolution. Overall, it was The beginning was a little slow and a bit confusing. I kept trying to figure out when Josephine was going to pop up when I realized that she had a different name. I knew that Josephine wasn't her real name yet didn't figure that out quickly. I was discouraged by the portrayal of the relationship between her and Napoleon. They are viewed to have loved each other despite all the cheating. I definitely learned a great deal about Josephine and how she survived the French Revolution. Overall, it was a great read.

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