Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe by Sandra Gulland

Books Completed: 14
Completion Date: January 28, 2007
Publication Year: 2006
Pages: 378
Owned Prior to 2007
Book Two in the Josephine B. Series

Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe is the much-awaited sequel to Sandra Gulland's highly acclaimed first novel, The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. Beginning in Paris in 1796, the saga continues as Josephine awakens to her new life as Mrs. Napoleon Bonaparte. Through her intimate diary entries and Napoleon's impassioned love letters, an astonishing portrait of an incredible woman emerges. Gulland transports us into the ballrooms and bedrooms of exquisite palaces and onto the blood-soaked fields of Napoleon's campaigns. As Napoleon marches to power, we witness, through Josephine, the political intrigues and personal betrayals -- both sexual and psychological -- that result in death, ruin, and victory for those closest to her.
I have to admit that I finished this book and almost immediately started book three, so I might have a hard time remembering what happens in book two and what happened in book one.

In the first book the main character was known as Rose, but now she is the beautiful wife of Napoleon. I really liked this trilogy. Josephine is a very interesting character. Some people are not fond of the diary-style of writing, but I thought it worked well for this trilogy. It feels more personal that way. You cannot help feeling bad for Josephine. She has not had a very easy life, most people in France at this time have not, but her luck does not seem to ever fully recover. As a result of her enprisionment during the Terror, she is unable to have Napoleon's child. They try all these methods, but we know that that the stress of her enprisionment likely resulted in her starting menopause at a young age. She can have children, she has two with her first husband, the timing is just wrong for her to give Napoleon any.

I thought that Napoleon is also an interesting character. You are not really sure if Josephine and Napoleon are going to hit it off at first, if you go into it with an innocent impression of what is going to happen. For those that know what happened in history, though, Gulland does a very good job sticking to the main historical facts. I cannot say that I liked Napoleon, though, he just had his good points. He loved Josephine, I never questioned that. He just tried to do what was best for France, and he had an atrocious family. At the end of the third book it tells what happened to all of them, actually.

Another thing I liked about the books were the footnotes. They explained things that happened in the previous book so you understood references, but they also included letters and things from historical records of Josephine and her family, plus providing references for off-hand remarks that were not explained. To someone living in Josephine's time, they likely made sense, but to people living today, unless you are very up on the time period, you might miss the reference. I have to admit that while I like history, and have taken many history courses in university, I have never had a course that covered the Napoleonic Wars in any great detail. They were mentioned, I know who they were, but even if it is a fiction book, this is the most I have ever read on Napoleon. When I graduate and reading non-fiction history books becomes fun again, this is a subject matter I would like to read more about.

I also have to briefly comment on the medical practices of the time. Normally I might have overlooked them, but I am taking a history of medicine course this year, and we just talked about medicine in about the time that this book covers, so it was interesting to see the methods I learned about in use in this novel. I mean, obviously I have seen it before, but in the past I did not have a medical history course to provide background information.

I wish I had not got sick, I should have wrote this review right after I read the book because now the three books are crowding together in my head.


Just so everyone knows, I really have all the books together in my mind, so I am writing individual reviews, but I am rating the books more as one full novel than three separate ones.

Authors Gender:
Female: 13
Male: 1

I have, obviously, read this author before. You can see my review on The Many Lives and Sorrows of Josephine B. by clicking here.

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