Friday, January 05, 2007

The Many Lives and Sorrows of Josephine B. by Sandra Gulland (Book 1 of the Josephine Series)

Books Completed: 2
Completion Date: January 4, 2007
Publication Year: (3-in-1 edtion) 2006
Pages: 429
Owned Prior to 2007

From the back of the book:
Sandra Gulland's irresistible epic draws the reader into the passionate relationship between Josephine and Napoleon Bonaparte. Comprising three acclaimed bestsellers, this omnibus traces Josephine's transformation from an impressionable young girl to the empress of France and one of the most sophisticated, powerful women in history.
I have the three-in-one edition of this book, so you will find that the back will be the same for each review. I hope to read the whole trilogy this month, and include them all in the From the Stacks challenge, but we will have to see how that goes.

I have had this book since March of last year. I bought it when it first came out as a 3-in-1 book, and it is has been on my to be read pile since. I have no idea why, but I was on my way out the door the other night to work, and while I had a book picked out to read, I came back downstairs and selected this one off my shelf. It was really random and a spur of the moment thought, but I am glad that I read it!

I have a strong liking for historical fiction novels, so when I heard about this trilogy I knew I had to eventually buy it. Other than Naomi Novik's historical fantasy series about the Napoleonic wars, this is the first time that I can remember reading a book about this particular period in time. It was not an intentional thing, but for whatever reason, this is the first time I got around to reading about this time period.

I really liked this book. Let me point out that I am totally clueless. I was reading the book, and the main character in the novel is named Rose. It never even came to mind that it should be Josephine. I really wonder about myself sometimes, as it was clear that she was going to be the main character in all three books. It was not until she met Napoleon that her name became Josephine. I am still kicking myself for being so totally unobservant!

It is amazing what Josephine becomes in this novel. She begins the book living with her family, having never even been to France before, but one of her aunts sends a letter looking for one of her nieces to marry a young man that her aunt knows, Alexandre. For a large period of the novel, he is an important person in France's history. This naive young girl comes to France, and winds up married to a very important man. Too bad that he is not a very nice husband, and treats her more like a friend than anything else. He does give her two wonderful children, that present themselves and their personalities several times during the course of the book. It is hard to believe that the woman that marries Alexandre becomes Empress of France, because she can be quite naive. She is brave, but she holds onto romantic notions that make you wonder how she ever gets ahead. She grows up, though.

During the course of just this first book you see her go from this naive little girl to this very important woman in France. She may not have a lot of money, but she is very brave and puts her fellow man ahead of herself more times than I can count. She does not seem to care what happens to herself, she is more interested in helping others. She makes wonderful connections in doing so, though, that help her out in the end. I have to say, I know who Napoleon is, of course, but he was never given a lot of study in the history courses that I took. As far as I can tell, Sandra Gulland put a lot of time into making this diary-format book as close to accurate as possible. I learned a lot, and plan to track down a non-fiction book in the future to get a clearer idea of the validity of this historical fiction novel.

I give this first installment a 4.5/5.

I am going to start adding a few stats as I go along to the end of my reviews. Just things that I found myself wishing I had kept track of last year.

Authors gender:
Female: 2
Male: 0

This author was new to me.

I also received one of the books I ordered with my Christmas gift certificates in the mail today: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I really stretched out my gift certificates this year. If I remember I will post a complete list of what I got when the rest of my order arrives next week.


  1. Anonymous1:53 PM

    OK...great review! Looks like I'll be adding these to my list as well!

  2. I enjoyed it. I look forward to reading the next installment!

  3. Anonymous5:13 PM

    Bloody hell, just lost my comment. Well, suffice to say that: I may just read the historical novel of Anne Boleyn I just received, though I've been chary of such in the past.

    P.S. Love your sidebar of challenges!

  4. Awesome review! I love historical novels as well so I may just end up giving this a try. ^_^

  5. Anonymous3:30 PM

    I haven't read anything about this period of history, but I might have to pick this one up. Sounds good!

  6. Anonymous4:31 PM

    So glad you liked this one- I LOVED this trilogy. Truly, it's great! I've always been obsessed with the period, but it really fueled an interest in the French Revolution for me. If it's done the same for you, I'd recommend the massive A Place of Greater Safety, by Hilary Mantel. Very good, in a completely different way.
    Gulland is writing another novel currently, FYI!

  7. I loved this trilogy as well! Sounds like you are starting 2007 off on the right track!

  8. Sandra10:43 AM

    Thanks for your review! I thought it very well done.

    Sandra Gulland


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