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Many Lives & Secret Sorrows Josephine B [Paperback]

Sandra Gulland
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 17 2000

In this first of three books inspired by the life of Josephine Bonaparte, wife of Napoleon, Sandra Gulland recreates the astonishing world of a young girl who transforms herself into one of the most powerful women in history. Told in an imaginative and historically accurate diary form, this is an utterly absorbing novel of magical proportions.


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Since completing high school history, few of us have managed to keep straight the details of the French Revolution. Beyond suggestions of eating cake and the effectiveness of the guillotine, this sordid time period has remained--for many--somewhat obscure. Now, through the novel The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B., not only do we learn of the many differences between Robespierre and Rousseau, but we gain insight into the marriage of one of history's greatest political couples: Napoleon and Josephine.

Standing beside the charismatic Napoleon, Josephine's own importance and fascinating history have often been overshadowed. In a fictionalized account of Josephine's diaries and her correspondence, author Sandra Gulland has shed light on Josephine's pre-Napoleon life. This, the first of three books about Josephine, covers her childhood in Martinique, her first marriage, the birth of her children, her life during the revolution, and her marriage to Napoleon.

A poor Creole outsider as well as a rising socialite, Josephine experienced both the horrors of imprisonment and the privilege of connections. Utilizing these different perspectives, Gulland takes special care to bring forth the reality of life in late 18th-century France. Though she can only theorize on Josephine's emotions and desires, Gulland's talented writing and the restrained use of footnotes keep the reader properly informed on pertinent details, whether they be obscure political events or voodoo beliefs. While professional historians may bristle at the artistic license Gulland employs, most readers will find her novel a satisfying and engaging introduction to this dramatic period. --Nancy R.E. O'Brien --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Library Journal

When Marie-Josephe-Rose Tascher was a girl in Martinique, a voodoo priestess predicted that she would be unhappily married, would then be widowed, and would become queen. With the profits from her father's sugar plantation spent largely on his gambling and drinking, the final prediction seems unlikely. An arranged marriage takes Rose to France, where she finds herself woefully uneducated and unprepared for high society. But in 1779 no one is prepared for the bloody upheaval that will convulse France for years. Rose endures her husband's infidelity and abandonment before his execution leaves her a widow. Combining charm, intelligence, empathy, and luck, she copes with poverty and prison, surviving the revolution with her children. Gulland skillfully re-creates the era's turbulence without confusing readers. A chronology and genealogy provide assistance, and Rose is a character worth caring about and remembering. Her marriage to Napoleon ends this first volume in a projected trilogy, leaving readers eager to know the rest of her story. [First published in Canada as a hardcover, this series is being issued in trade paperback in the United States.AEd.]AKathy Piehl, Mankato State Univ., M.
-AKathy Piehl, Mankato State Univ., MN
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Historical novel Dec 15 2010
By Angie
Format:Paperback
Wonderful story, we just read it in our book club. First of a Trilogy. The author researched France before, during and after the French Revolution. Written in Diary form, it was an amazing experience to read. Highly recommended. Note, Napoleon doesn't enter the story until close to the end!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it!!! Dec 14 2010
Format:Paperback
I simply just LOVED IT! I love history and this book provides you entertainment and knowledge about how they lived back then. I definitely recommend it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars got me hooked May 16 2007
Format:Paperback
I bought this from the bargin bin at a large book sellers. I was one lucky woman, I would have paid much more for it. I read this and the rest of the series is quick succession. A great way to do it if you can. It gave me a really great story arc and a fabulous over all general understanding of the time. These books have got me super interested in that time and now I am even reading non-fiction books on the subject! I didnt find the authors writting self involved or heavy handed with historical details. I really enjoyed it from a story as a view into anther womans life relationships and marriage. It was very good.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Book! April 19 2002
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I had never heard of this book before I saw it at a book fair. I am so glad I picked it up! I have talked about it so much, that all of my friends are reading it. I thought the book was very well written. The diary entries, which I though at first I wouldn't like because it is fiction, were believable and wonderful to read. I learned things about the French Revolution and their society that I had never know before. Josephine Bonaparte is a smart, witty, and inspiring woman. Her triumphs over her family, husband, and society pull you in so you want to keep reading. I can't wait to start the second book. I would recomend this to anyone who likes historical fiction. One of the best I have read!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Josephine's life via her diary--fabulous! March 5 2002
Format:Paperback
I'm not a big fan of the whole 'history via a character's diary' thing. But I grabbed this book on a whim and was quickly absorbed. Sandra Gulland makes her Josephine so real and lovable--she's not the out-of-reach French Empress who happened to cheat on Napoleon. Josephine is actually a very real, warm person with insecurities and loneliness and the same troubles that any of us would have. Her marriage is rough, she has to move far away from home, she worries about having the money for her children's education. You laugh, cry, and worry right along with Rose/Josephine.
The historical details in this are wonderful as well. It's obvious that Sandra Gulland put a lot of research into her book, and it certainly pays off. I immediately ordered the second and third book, and was not disappointed in any of them.
I recommend ordering the entire trilogy immediately. Trust me when I say you'll rip through all three in a record pace. They're that good.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, Eye-opening Tale of a Future Queen Feb. 13 2002
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I only recently heard about this popular series of books on Josephine Bonaparte. I started reading this first one and could not put it down. I was immediately drawn into the young girl's life as she experiences one setback after another all the while remaining the strong, dignified individual that she is. My friends were right--Josephine B. had an amazing life that was very tragic and heart-wrenching yet inspirational and full of love.
This is a real page-turner. I felt as if I were peeking into a friend's diary and becoming hooked on her stories. I couldn't wait to see what happened next. After devouring this book in only two days, I decided to purchase the 2nd and 3rd books in the series. I know I won't be disappointed. Buy this book and you won't be disappointed either. Enjoy!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting Reading Jan. 9 2002
By M.A.E.
Format:Paperback
The book, written in diary format, documented the early life and formative years of Rose Tasher (aka Josephine Bonaparte). The only knowledge I had about this woman prior to reading this book was that she was Napolean's wife. Afterwards, I was truly enlightened and amazed to learn she was born a creole in Martinique.
Gulland provides an historical perspective of a young woman growing up in the Carribean, and her dreams for the future in a "magnificent" land. The author does much justice to historical timelines by including accurate references to mysticism, fortune-telling, local customs and development of young love and young dreams. Truly a delight to read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An exelent book Dec 30 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This book is exelent. After I picked it up I couldn't stop reading. It taught me a lot of things, and I know it will teach everybody something. I think it's just amazing how Josephine handeled her problems and how she faced the bad things in her life. If you read that book, it will warm your heart. I would definitely recommend that book to other people, and I can't wait to read the next one.
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