Read The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. by Sandra Gulland Online


Young Josephine Bonaparte shines at the center of a new, sweeping, romantic work of historical fiction by Sandra Gulland: detailed and exhaustively researched, compelling and powerful, The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. is the first in a trilogy of fictional novels tracing the actual rise of a young European noblewoman who would one day stand next to NapoleoYoung Josephine Bonaparte shines at the center of a new, sweeping, romantic work of historical fiction by Sandra Gulland: detailed and exhaustively researched, compelling and powerful, The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. is the first in a trilogy of fictional novels tracing the actual rise of a young European noblewoman who would one day stand next to Napoleon. From the heartbreak of lost loves to the horror of revolution to the hope of new days, it's an intimate epic any romance lover will love....

Title : The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B.
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780684856063
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 436 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. Reviews

  • Arah-Lynda
    2019-02-26 16:15

    History is Fiction. - RobespierreThis entire book was written in epistolary format, which does not always work for me. In fact I think I may have read this a great deal sooner had my daughter not told me that the story unfolded as diary entries. That would have been my loss as the writing here is sublime. Every sentence just flows into the next and I feel as though I am a fly on the wall looking over Josephine’s shoulder as she writes. To be accurate though I cannot yet call her Josephine. I met her first at the tender age of fourteen, in 1777, as Rose, on the island of Martinique. The story opens with Rose being told an extraordinary fortune by a voodoo priestess who lived in the shack up the river.The old woman began to moan, rolling her head from side to side, the whites of her eyes cloudy. Then she looked at me and screamed-a sound I will never forget, not unlike a pig being stuck.“What is it!” I demanded. I was not without fear. “Mimi!” “Why is she crying?”The old woman was shaking her head and mumbling. Finally she spoke, slowly, but strangely. “You will be unhappily married. You will be widowed.”I put my hand to my throat. The old woman began to shake. She shook her hands, crying out words I could not understand.“Mimi, what is she saying?”The old woman began to dance, singing with the voice of a man. I backed away, stumbling over a gnarled tree root. I fell in the dirt and scrambled to my feet.“You will be Queen”, she said.Despite the fact that this is a work of fiction let there be no doubt that it has been meticulously researched. I can say this without hesitation as I was swayed on more than one occasion to conduct a little on line research of my own, so fascinated was I by the historic events through which Rose was living. These were the days of The Terror occurring shortly after the onset of the French revolution, a period of violence during which the guillotine became the symbol of the revolution and claimed the lives of 16,594 people, a number which includes King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. In truth, Rose herself, nearly fell victim to the guillotine. She was spared (after all she has yet to meet Napoleon) but another historic figure took her place below that blade. I shiver as I enter The Place de la Concorde. (The public square in Paris where the guillotine had been erected)Wow I need to read more historical fiction of this calibre.

  • Jeanette
    2019-03-12 11:11

    4.5 stars, just a smidgen under a 5 perfection. The form of diary and letters with footnotes was superb. It worked for me far more than other fiction narrative forms. Rose's writing is indicative of her character, her core, so intensely that it gave a window in itself.But the eyes were the substance here. This is history and circumstance as it was seen, not as it was later or further interpreted. And I don't need a middle man to interpret history for me. First source material is the thing!! The absolute heart, the intrinsic value! And what a life. The onus for girl children! Especially on Martinique, that Creole based culture of religious, strict heritage, completely aligned directives. The choices nil on a personal or individual level- across the boards. This was true even within the continental South of USA Louisiana territory where girls were also commanded to return to France for their unseen bridegrooms. No other marriages permitted. And the younger the better too, in most cases. Plus the slavery surrounds and rebellion slaughtering and circumstances for lethal disease, both bacterial and childbirth related. What are the odds of her fortune coming true to a fruition? Infinitesimal!But in this dense read, which took me twice the time of a "norm"- much closer to the study of a non-fiction than a fiction work? Well, that first 15 year beginning was actually the "easy" part, IMHO.Because with the voyages, the deaths surrounding her, the nature of Alexandre, her husband! Coupled with the legacy of her father's proclivities? Can there be any survival instinct of self worth that would not have just fallen away to the same patterns? It would have been so facile. But instead she holds her Mother's core- and like her Mother, will often have to experience separation and heartache and DISTINCT when will it end DISTANCE from her most loved (children)- merely to keep them all alive.The parts and associations just before the Terror, and within the prison during the period just before Robespierre took his turn were 5 plus star. Can you only imagine the "goods" economics of trying to stay alive, let alone the vermin, the trauma of hearing and listening for your name on those lists every morning. And after a year or two of duplicity / moving/ suspicion and seeing your own husband become fanatic and "inspired" as well. Knowing your household help and close friend may even turn you in for a joke! Much like the Cultural Revolution in China or in "correct" thinking regimes in Russia. But actually far worse, because it was NOT just exile, Siberia, starving in the country for a slower death- but a tumbrel ride among crying teenage "Royalists" all going to the guillotine together in groups every single day. Not just adults either or the middle-aged- but all ages. 70 today, 200 tomorrow, 40 the next day and on and on and on for two years or more. And knowing your help goes to see this every afternoon (when she tells you that she is looking for trade in any goods for consumption) and comes home in high color and with a vigorous attitude! This book puts you there. With that kind of fear and feelings for "liberty" fully dressed in hate.The legal aspects in this was also 5 star. French bureaucracy never taking a week off during this entire decade- because someone was always "the law" and had written "dictate". Can you imagine what the marriage state itself (by legal definition)actually provided for her? Or her children? Nearly nothing at all but the name itself. She is not even recognized in eventual time within his written will for being a "legal" entity for goods inheritance within his lifetime's proceeds. Plus she is trying to support at least 3 of his illegitimate daughters other than her own two children, and one illegitimate half-sister too, from one of her father's escapades in age. And to think that you can legislate through pure terror and bloodshed the abolition of faith belief, cultural practice, family loyalty, skills and grasp of knowledge tied within the class structure (like reading, or raising cows purely for cheese, or being able to translate or command water craft or horses)- to me, the absolute futility and ignorance of that entire "restructuring" is ridiculous. Doomed to all failures by the very process of life long mistrust, if nothing else. Let alone the constant and incessant instability.Waste and poverty as the new badges of "pride" and common sense buried in the pile of the heads.Rose sees all of this. And feels all of this. And loses so much. The least of it was the material.The only reason I did not give it a 5 was for a wee bit of detail that I felt Rose curtailed. Like with the state of her teeth, and hair, and within the observations for those she loved in like manner. She tended to overlook the nasty reality of the physical as she disdained to look in her own mirror for long periods of time. If she even had one that is. But that never "realizing" is what probably helped her survive to live another day and not lose her cognition of who she was. Not just what she now looks like she is. It probably was one of the metals in her soul that got her through. Because she was forged. And Napoleon recognized the quality within that meld. Both sought future advantage- there was no place to go but up. But treading ground that was ever and continuing earthquake. All their future days? And also with so many of the few surviving under characters. I will continue this after March, 1796 portion, when I can.This is a Rose who has become a Josephine- her first 32 years. Only 32 years and what she had seen and experienced! The voyages between Martinique and France ALONE.The charts at the end. The lists of dates. The ever present footnotes. They were top notch magnificent. Would that all fiction writers would herald to such a standard.

  • Kyla
    2019-03-14 11:13

    This was a beautifully crafted book. Written in the voice of Josephine after nearly a decade of research by the author, it is intensely captivating and is one of my all time favorite books- along with the two that follow it in the trilogy. If you're a sucker for historical fiction it is an absolute MUST read.

  • Lisa (Harmonybites)
    2019-03-15 18:23

    This purports to be the diary of Josephine Bonaparte from the time she was a fourteen-year-old plantation owner's daughter in Martinique in 1777 to her marriage to Napoleon in 1796. That's its weakness and it's strength. The weakness, I think, being that diary format. There are novels told in diary form that I've found moving and riveting: Bridget Jones's Diary, Flowers for Algernon, and even, believe it or not, a Buffy novel, Go Ask Malice. I think what all of them have in common are very strong voices and the way the entries show a change in the character. Without a strong personality, diary format can come across as sketchy, with a jerky, stop and go quality, and I'm afraid I found the voice created for Josephine very bland and the voice doesn't vary from inexperienced creole girl to a mature sophisticated woman deeply involved and influential in the the politics of Revolutionary France. I don't feel the story gained from being in diary form or even first person.The strength? That this is the story of Josephine Bonaparte, and if the story it tells comes anywhere near the historical truth, she's a far more interesting character than I could have guessed. A generous, compassionate woman who took risks to save others against the backdrop of "the Reign of Terror" where she almost lost her own head to the guillotine. The content of her life and the history she lived kept me riveted, in spite of spare, restrained, dare I say dull, writing. The picture of Revolutionary France, that turned into a totalitarian state in the name of "liberty" was fascinating. However, I often found the footnotes in the book of real history more revealing, making Josephine sound more complex and interesting than the voice created for her telling her own story. As for Napoleon, he only enters the story in the last 50 pages or so, and comes across as a rather cold fish, while history (and his surviving letters to her) marks his love for Josephine as one of the great passionate affairs in history--not something that comes across in the book. I admit in the end I'm much more likely as the result of this novel to pick up a biography of her, than the next volume in the trilogy.

  • Shane
    2019-03-01 12:17

    Gulland certainly goes under the petticoats of this pivotal period in history, the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era, to provide a day by day commentary of events as they unfolded, narrated by the enigmatic but charismatic Rose, aka Josephine, as named by her second husband.Born in Martinique off Creole heritage and married off to French aristocrat Alexandre de Beauharnais as a replacement to his original choice of her younger sister Catherine (who died suddenly and conveniently), Rose charms and ascends the ranks of Parisian society during the period of unrest following the French Revolution. Her first marriage is one of convenience as Alexandre continues to pursue his career, take mistresses and sire illegitimate children, despite having a son and daughter by Rose. The Reign of Terror descends and Alexandre is imprisoned and later guillotined for his failure to win a key battle. Rose follows him into prison but escapes on a reprieve when Robespierre himself (the patriarch of the Terror) is executed.A released Rose continues her survival and the protection of her fledgling family by artfully affiliating with the right power brokers of the shifting political hierarchy. While other histories chronicle her as being the mistress of several powerful men during her widowhood, this novel shows her with only one lover, a married man, General Hoche, until she meets Napoleon, and agrees to another marriage of convenience: for her, to dispense an obligation to the all-powerful Deputy Barras who is paying for her children’s education and is one of the "rulers by committee" of the new Republic; for Bonaparte, to legitimize his Corsican heritage with the French and be appointed Chief of the Italian Army.The novel is written as Rose's diary and hence certain events occur off-stage, and yet the on-stage happenings are vividly re-created with penetrating intimacy. What is fascinating is the portrayal of the shifting allegiances of the time: people in-favour one day are out of favour the next, the aristocracy is forced to become ordinary “citoyen” while the common man steps into seats of power and influence and are seen "drinking water from finger bowls" and "blowing their noses on table cloths." Marriages are formal and loveless, while passion is found only with lovers. Even Rose and Alexandre take different lovers while sharing the same prison and awaiting their impending execution. Peculiar customs of the time: footmen arranging women's hairdo's, young women being "bled" to give them a fair and pale complexion in public, rinsing with urine to numb a toothache, maids standing by with needles and thread for emergency garment repairs during the Queen's ball, "having flowers" aka having a menstrual period, drinking port and beer during a pregnancy - very interesting indeed!I believe I will read the other two books in this trilogy, for this indeed is a “Sodom and Gomorrah” period of recent history and Gulland deserves kudos for the meticulous research behind this effortlessly delivered novel.

  • Sandra
    2019-03-17 16:17

    [image error]It's a little embarrassing to review a book I wrote, but I will say this: First: Readers have been over-the-moon about Joséphine.Second: This e-book edition is the first of my e-book publishing enterprise, Sandra Gulland INK, and I'm very proud of it. I read e-books a lot, and I often find myself grumbling at the poor design and layout. For example, shouldn't a book always open at the cover? In the absence of a jacket cover, we need the information that we would normally find there: what the book is about, glowing reviews from others ... etc. All this to say that I wanted my INK editions to be the type of ebook I myself would love to read. But about the book itself? What can I say but that it was originally published 17 years ago, and I'm STILL getting wonderful fan letters from readers. It has been published in 17 countries. Readers report the book being loved by many generations in one family. See what you think? Try it! I'm offering it free to Kobo and iBook readers. For now, it's only £.77 on Kindle (hopefully they will pricematch to free at sometime soon.) I'm sorry, but this edition is only available outside Canada and the US, where my publishers do a very good job of selling all my books in all formats, both e-book and print. Let's see if I can manage a link or two: The book's page on my website.Download now from Kobo: it's FREE.Download now from Kindle for only £.77.

  • Gary
    2019-03-24 14:14

    I found this a very exciting smooth read and after every session looked forward to coming back for more. Takes is from Josephine aka Roses Tascher's ' childhood on the Caribbean island of Martinique through her troubles marriage to Alexandre De Beuharnais and pre-Revolutionary France, the French Revolution and the horrors of the Reign of Terror in which the protagonist' husband is executed and she herself escapes execution only by Robespierre's death and the Thermidore coup.Follows on with sharp insight into post Terror France and the time of the directory, with intimate portrayals of French politcians of the time such as Barras, Tallien and FoucheIt is towards the end of the novel where we get to explore the courtship of Rose by the brash young general Napoleon Buonoparte, the protege of the leading figure of the Directory, Deputy Barras.The book makes one feel excited to see into the private life and thoughts of Josephine, but he way the politics and society of the France of the time (as well as the focus on the slave rebellion on Martinique inspired by the revolution) is analysed and presented in a worm's eye view. What we see in the heroin (She is named Rose for most of the novel but as we know her by Josephime B that is her name in the title because not many of us know her as Rose Tascher) is complex woman, a proud libertine but with a thread of strong compassion for the impoverished masses and horror at the depredations of the terror.

  • Kerri
    2019-03-09 16:28

    I had a lot of issues with this story. While I found the beginning engaging, the story didn't make much sense starting about a third of the way through. Her husband tells her she needs to work on her writing skills, yet the novel is in diary form so the reader can see for herself whether her writing needs improvement. And, of course, it doesn't. Her writing also doesn't change at all as she gets older and more experienced. Same verse, same insight. Since the author chose to use a diary format, she needs to be true to the character's own personal growth. I also found all of the names of the various characters a bit confusing and I couldn't really believe Rose would befriend some of the politicians she meets after her marriage. Another flaw with the story was her relationship with her husband. it wasn't believable. He was not a nice guy, he never was. Yet, she felt such an obligation toward him which just didn't resonate with me. While the novel may be based in fact, I felt like the author just didn't provide enough depth and complexity within Rose's character. Rose is a strong woman, so at times, her choices just didn't make sense. This book is one of three, but I highly doubt I will be reading the next two. The story just lost my interest towards the end.

  • Chrissie
    2019-03-26 15:20

    NO SPOILERSI have thoroughly enjoyed this book, the first of Sandra Gulland's trilogy concerning Josephine Bonaparte. I have completed ALL three books of the trilogy. I think it is very important to read them as one book. For that reason I will write one review and let it stand for all three books. I think it is wrong to evaluate them differently. All three were marvelous. Why? Well because youu got under the skin of Josephine, who in fact was called Rose until Napolean decided to change her name! Well, Napolean decided to change his own name too. You truly understood what she went through - her youth in Martinique, her life with her first husband, her relationships with her two children by this first husband, her experiences of the French Revolution and of course Napolean. The primary reason why I give these books five stars is b/c you REALLY get to know the people - Josephine, her children and Napolean and his unbelievably yucky family. Somehow this author makes these people and their lives and the times they lived through REAL! The style of writing is not extraordinary, but what the author achieves is extraordinary. Don't be put off that the book is written as diary entries. It doesn't read like that. The dates are simply helpful so you know exactly when the historical events are occurring. The footnotes are interesting and informative.The chronological summary at the back of the books is helpful if you ever want to see the historical events at a glance, but honestly it is not necessary b/c everything is so interesting that you never get confused. In my view this trilogy better describes the French Revolution than Hillary Mantel's A Place of Greater Safety! Mantel has risen to such popularity for her book Wolf Hall. In Gulland's trilogy you become more involved. You understand how it might feel to fight for fraternity, liberty and equality and then see it being torn away again by the Royalists. Over and over again! The French Revolution was really a civil war with friends becoming foes and everyone changing sides all the time. What the Terror meant to the people living through it is heart wrenching. You come to understand how after all these troubles, Napolean and his Empire came into being. How can the French people seek freedom and then back the formation of an empire, and emperor with hereditary succession. All this becomes very, very clear and you think the same yourself. I haven't said a word about Josephine's relationship with Napolean. THIS is the most moving part of the book. This is a true love story. She knew her husband. He loved her AND she loved him! DON'T on the other hand think that Josephine is a weak, head-over-heels in love woman. She has an excellent brain and she uses it. She is a business woman. She loves winning a game, a gamble. She is marvelous. There have always been strong women. Everyone says women have no rights and they are constantly pushed down, but some women defied all the cutoms of their times. And they get away with it marvelously! That I understand Josephine and what is going on in her head and what her emotions were is perhaps LESS surprising than that I ALSO com to understand Napolean - the general, the emperor. I highly recommend this trilogy. History that goes down like a spoonful of Tom and Jerry ice cream. :0) Personally, I think you learn more from this book than a dry history book that makes no attempt to put flesh and blood on to the bones of the historical entities. Don't forget the epilogue and the postscript. Furthermore, the comments below also discuss why I loved this trilogy. Through page 146: Althought this reads like engaging fiction, the known facts of Josephine Bonaparte's life are accurately documented. Personally I find her sojourns at Martinique very much as engaging as her time spent in Paris. It is very interesting to read of diverse issues occurring at the time of the French Revolution and not JUST the polical trends. You get a more complete view of the times. You experience storms at sea and on the island. These storms actually occurred. Grain was destroyed and made the people in Paris hungry and is an important cause for the social and political unrest. You learn of how the peopled suffered from illnesses and old age. Josephine's love for her children feels true. Napolean still hasn't entered the scence.Through page 129: Life seems so terribly dangerous. It is now 1788. The conditions described concern a family that is privileged! The conditions for the poor are horrendous. The events and the conditions feel very, very real. Through page 97:How the aristocrats lived in the late 1700s (before the French Revolution) in Paris is well described. Childbirth, sexual relationships, dress, food, theater, literature, the salons, Rousseau's political beliefs, the Royalty's behavior and more are all viewed through the eyes of Josephine and her new acquaintances in Paris. Did you know that Voltaire's writings are full of spelling errors.?! I like knowing that. I feel a bit better! So the story is interesting. The language is fine, but nothing exceptional. There is no reason to quote anything. The characters are interesting, but I wouldn't say I am emotionally drawn to anyone. So far it is a light, intersting read. Oh, and Josephine has still not met Napolean.Through page 43: The book reads like a novel. It consists of short paragraph entries in Josephine's diary which she received on her 14th birthday. I am thoroughly enjoying this, which actually surprises me for two reasons. First of all you do not doubt that it is a novel. Secondly, I usually hate epistolary writing. Here again, all rules can be broken. Josephine's voice rings true for a young girl in the late 1700s. It is however not written in a stilted voice. The diary entries are very short, so they are in no way clumsy. It is just like reading intereting paragraphs with an added date. Historical notes are added at the bottom of the page to give indepth information. I like reading them. The reader may do as they choose. Did you know that the "green flash", the line of green that can appear in the sky at sunrise or sunset, was thought to bring you good luck? Or that Britain at that time was preventing shipments of salt to Martinique b/c the French were helping the Americans in their War of Independence from Britain. I am also curious about the belief in voodoo mystic on the island at this time. I have always been taught to call the island Martinique, but the back cover uses the name Martinico - why?! And let me add that much has already happened in only 43 pages. What a relief after Pnin! Good descriptive writing, but so terribly mean spirited. Ughhh.

  • Carole P. Roman
    2019-03-14 15:13

    I fell in love when I read this book. Josephine, yes, Napoleon's Josephine became my bff. Written in diary form, this book is an intimate portrait of a woman, who happened to live and be a part of interesting times. When I started the book, I didn't know the players, and have since researched them all. Guilland writes of a real flesh and blood woman, used, abused, honored and ultimately tossed aside. I cried knowing the outcome, but Guilland writes to the heart. A wonderful read, I zoomed through all three books. After finishing them, I was left with an finely drawn picture of an fascinating person who shaped the world. Sometimes it's not just about the guys!!

  • Phyllis
    2019-03-27 13:29

    Ah finally. A book that I could just sink my teeth into and enjoy wholeheartedly! This is the first book of a trilogy about Josephine B., as in Bonaparte. I knew absolutely nothing about her background, but only as a famous appendage of Napoleon, as in Romeo and Juliet. Although the book is fiction, it is heavily research with some footnotes. What I love is knowing that it's heavily based on fact, but that the research doesn't seep through into the story. Josephine, whose original name of Rose was changed by Napoleon, was born on the French island of Martinique, to cane grower parents. A local fortune teller predicted some very important events in Rose's life (I won't be a spoiler and tell you)In this first book of the trilogy Napoleon plays a very small role but the bloody background and Roses's own experiences are succificient to keep the reader engrossed and fascinated. By the time Rose meets Napoleon, she is no virginal innocent by any means, and he is still pretty rough along the edges. I immediately proceeded to the second volume!!

  • Amy Bruno
    2019-03-25 14:06

    C'est magnifique!!!

  • Myriam
    2019-03-18 11:16

    An interesting, fun and fast read.

  • Kate Forsyth
    2019-03-02 16:31

    This novel is written as if it was the secret diary of Rose de Beauharnias, the young woman who would become known to history as Empress Joséphine, wife of Napoleon. It begins when Rose was a young girl living with her family on the island of Martinique, and she is told a strange prophecy by a native fortune-teller: ‘You will be unhappily wed. You will be widowed. You will be Queen.’ The novel then follows Rose’s life as she moves to France, is married to a French nobleman who ends up being guillotined, and through to her marriage to the brilliant young general, Napoleon. The style of the book is most unusual – it actually really feels like a personal diary, unlike most novels written in this form. Although I have read biographies of Napoleon and Jospehine before, this novel feels incredibly real and immediate. I’ve already ordered the following two books in the trilogy – a really gripping novel.

  • Amy
    2019-03-09 16:03

    I would have never chosen this book on my own. My boss recommended it and I started reading slowly at first. This week I've stayed up every night until at least 2:00 a.m. reading it. It's not an easy read since it's in diary form (I find that more challenging for some reason) and some words are in French (names/locations and slang mostly). I took two years of French in high school but I don't recall much at all. It's a historical fiction, of which I haven't read many. I loved it though. It makes me want to go back to France to visit these places with a better, more educated perspective than I had on my visit at 15 years old. I cared more about cute boys or my hair back then I'm sure!

  • Allie
    2019-03-22 16:10

    I reallllly liked it!! It moved very quickly and was sad, fun, informative.... Excited to keep reading the series. Napoleon seems like quite a character! Rose/Josephine has real emotions most women can relate to... Gulland did a great job describing the chaos of the French Revolution and the impact it had on the French. Life in prison was painful to read. Anyway, I loved it the more I think about it.

  • Heidi
    2019-03-10 15:16

    I've been meaning to read this novel, by fellow Killaloe-ian, for awhile now. It's a time in history (French Revolution) I hadn't realised I'd wanted to learn more about. The book is well written and researched and Josephine/Rose's story is an interesting one. I recommend!

  • Tudor Robins
    2019-03-15 12:32

    Captivating, wonderful. I can't say it better than the cover blurb from the Edmonton Journal - "It is that rare thing: a smart book you can read as compulsively as a beach-blanket thriller." My experience EXACTLY.Truly a great writing accomplishment.

  • Laura
    2019-03-22 17:13

    The first book of this trilogy. A excellent research work by Sandra Gulland which cannot be missed.

  • Sharon
    2019-03-16 16:22

    This was an interesting read and I learned a lot about the woman who would become Josephine Bonaparte that I did not know. I don't know that it will ever be a book that I revisit since I find the details of the French Revolution to be horrific. Stories that engage my attention often stay with me for days after I finish them and affect my mood for either good or ill. While parts of this tale are pleasant and all of it is informative, some was very upsetting because it is based on factual events and real people. This is not the first book I've read that delves deeply into the Terror but it is the most factual. It's worth reading, but I doubt I will read it again. Generally the writing style was excellent. Presenting the story as a series of entries to a diary and as assorted correspondence to the diarist had me turning the page to read 'just one more entry' before putting the book down repeatedly and staying up way too late reading. At the same time I must say that I found the footnotes rather odd. The tiny historical notes were useful to know but didn't fit at all with the style of the rest of the book. I understand the utility of placing the notes on the same page as the obscure reference, but it distracted me from the story.

  • Mary Fleming
    2019-02-28 11:26

    Recommended by my granddaughter this is an excellent story set in Revolutionary Paris The details esp of ladies fashion were amazing - great research here. I shall look forward to the other two books in the trilogy. Thanks Carrie.

  • Diana
    2019-03-24 15:28

    This trilogy is incredible. I read these sometime around 2003, and they'll be well worth another read at some point!

  • Karen
    2019-03-10 13:24

    OK. This is Josephine Bonaparte we’re talking about-–the shocking woman who pushed the waistline of her dresses up so she could appear longer in public pregnant (or so I have in my head)! The wife of the Emperor of the World! The French Revolution! The sugar plantations of the Caribbean! How on earth could this book turn out so dull? It was dull. So dull, in fact, that I have to get up and reheat a leftover Chipotle carnitas taco right now I can’t stand thinking about this book.OK.I received the entire trilogy that this book starts when I was on my road trip a few weeks ago. My stepmother gave it to me in a very nice box set box and said that she had read it and didn’t really want it back. That maybe should have alerted me, because other times she has given me my own copies of books she has read and kept, but I was on a road trip with an iPod I couldn’t charge (that Blue Screen of Death Debacle I never wrote about) and accepted them. So it’s in diary form. Ugh. Not my favorite, but readable if it is actually in diary form. You know, like Mary Chesnut’s diary of the Civil War. Not when it’s just a first person novel broken up into faux date segments as if she were making notes in her book, complete with dialogue and quotation marks and explanatory footnotes. So the diary conceit was perfunctory at best; maybe that was the hook that got it published. Something has to make a book original, right? My second complaint is how episodic this story was, and the head pounding over the magical Negress back home who prophesied that Josephine would be queen. Go figure.Josephine ends up in prison to have her head cut off by the revolutionaries eventually, and that could have been pretty exciting. I liked how the character of her son was portrayed. He was a minor character but he seemed quite real to me. Something was missing, though, in Josephine’s reflections on the world around her and the way people treated her. It was like being wrapped in cotton batting and not really having any reactions. The diary/first person/unrealistic prose (for a diary–it would have been better as a straight novel) put too much distance between the events and the reader. I finished the book and that’s it. I feel a little guilty now for passing the whole box set to my mother, who ran out of things to read. I feel like I am keeping secrets from her that she should know, and that I am committing a lie of omission. It is my secret sorrow. Maybe she’ll never get around to reading it. Retirement keeps her pretty busy, you know.Part of the problem might be that I have rather recently seen the Kirsten Dunst Marie Antoinette movie, which just sparkled. The clothes! The setting! The soundtrack! I don’t know how much of it was true to life or character (or events) but it left an impression. I really liked it and I didn’t know that I would. This book just fades away in comparison. I don’t even remember the titles of the other two books.On the other hand, it made me very badly want to read a good book about the French Revolution. Whatever biography of Marie Antoinette the movie drew from is supposedly good (I haven’t researched it thoroughly), and you can’t beat the French Revolution for a misunderstood and glorified phenomenon. I had wanted very badly to look up such a book after seeing that movie, and I forgot about it. I am grateful, then, to this novel for rekindling my interest.Did you know that Marie Antoinette was accused of child molestation at her trial? It was trumped up, of course, but isn’t that interesting? I learned that on Wikipedia–even better, on a page that has a disputed neutrality. You go, Wiki!

  • Wendy Dunn
    2019-02-25 15:32

    Beautifully crafted, with characters almost stepping off the page, THE MANY LIVES AND SECRET SORROWS OF JOSEPHINE B is an extremely satisfying re-creation of the early life of Josephine Bonaparte. Written as a personal journal, Sandra Gulland's prose engages the reader from first page to last, bringing to life her main character 'Rose', better known to history as Josephine, the first wife of Napoleon.Rose begins her story as a fourteen-year-old, on the brink of her journey to adulthood. Born into a Catholic plantation family from the French province of Martinico, Rose's family is down on its luck and too poor to provide the dowries for Rose and her two sisters. Yet a Voodoo priestess predicts to Rose she will be married unhappily, widowed and then become Queen - an unbelievable prediction, which steers the course of Rose's life.At seventeen, the first part of the prediction becomes true when she is married to a young man of good birth, a man who only sees Rose as the 'wife' that can be picked up and put aside as the whim takes him. With a lover who has already borne him a child the time of his marriage, Rose's husband appears to only see his wife as the vessel to bear the children to carry on his family name. But, despite a husband constantly unfaithful and a life often beset with anguish and hardship, Rose never loses her generous and caring spirit. With Rose's style and great compassion, not forgetting her ability to make friends where-ever she went, it is no wonder Napoleon put aside his desire for money to choose Rose for his wife, renaming her Josephine.With the backdrop of turbulent times and rich in historical detail, if you enjoy books making the past live again, I highly recommend this first book of a trilogy, THE MANY LIVES AND SECRET SORROWS OF JOSEPHINE B.

  • Gaile
    2019-03-13 10:17

    This is about the story of Josephine Bonaparte from the time of her childhood to the time she meets and marries Napoleon Bonaparte. She is born in Martinique, named Marie Joseph Rose de Tasher de la Pagerie and called Rose. She travels to France to marry Alexandre Beauharnais, bears him two children and they quickly become estranged. Although Rose survives the terror, Alexandre does not. Politics rule Rose's young life as she watches government tumble and change over and over. She is imprisoned along with her husband and fully expects to die. A change in government frees her.Napoleon is thought of as strange when he first appears on the scene. He insists on calling her Josephine. Although Rose is warned not to marry him, she feels he is her fate and marries him against her better judgment.There is only one mistake in this book and that is that the Dauphin died at age ten in 1795. The author could not have known this at the time the novel was written. It has since been proven through DNA that the Dauphin Of France died at age fourteen from TB probably in 1799.Written in diary form, which is not my favorite style, the novel is nonetheless engrossing because of the period of history young Rose is living through.

  • Jennifer
    2019-03-20 14:07

    Continuing on my historical fiction jag, I picked this up because it was recommended in the Complete Idiot's Guide to the Ultimate Reading List. This was a quick read due to the diary form. And I was fascinated (and horrified) by the background of the Reign of Terror (which makes for good Wikipedia strings afterwards). I did not realize this was the first of a trilogy and was surprised that 3/4 of the way through the book we had not even met Napolean yet. I liked the book enough that I am looking forward to the next two. I don't think that Josephine could have been such an amazing woman as the book depicts her--definitely some creative license there. I don't mind have heroes that do stupid things and make bad decisions. I would have preferred her to be a little more gritty. I will admit, I am also a sucker for a book that tells history from a woman's point of view. Sex, Violence and Language MeterThe book has many sexual situations but are not graphic: 4. There is a lot of violence (it was the Revolution after all) but mostly we read about it and it takes place off stage: 7. No language really: 1.

  • KyleeJ
    2019-03-24 11:12

    "The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B." by Sandra Gulland is an historical fiction novel with (for me) a bit of a twist. It is written in diary form. At first I wasn't sure about reading a 'journal'. I thought it would feel disjointed, I was wrong. The journal hits all of the highs and lows. The feel is even more 'real' given that Ms. Gulland uses not just the dates and places where the entries were written, but also times of day in some cases and partial/entire letters written to Rose. She was known as Rose before she met, then married, Napoleon; he gave her the name 'Josephine'.Finding out that she had a different name for her first 32 years was just one of many things that I learned from reading this book. "The Many Lives..." is the first of a series. I will definitely be reading the other two in this series.To read more of my reviews, visit my website:

  • Sharmila
    2019-02-26 16:24

    I love historical fiction when the heroine is truly compelling and the pace is not too slow. This, the first in the trilogy, was exactly that. Quick paced, passionate, and compelling. I immediately loved Rose...and felt more and more inspired by her as the story went on. Some of the betrayal and pain she has to go through is really maddening because you really feel she deserves so much better. She makes choices I did not even think it was possible for women to make at that time....a real heroine. It lost one star because at times it was hard to keep up with all the historical facts thrown into the storyline...and I found myself skimming to get back to the story of her life. I can't wait for parts 2 and 3.

  • Kate Lawrence
    2019-03-15 12:26

    I read and enjoyed Gulland's Mistress of the Sun last year. This one, the first of a trilogy about Josephine Bonaparte, was also a pleasure. Once in awhile I enjoy reading a novel that is not too demanding, a sort of light entertainment. Not that the themes of Josephine's life are light, by any means: the loss of family members in childhood; a loveless arranged first marriage; imprisonment, execution of her husband and barely escaping the guillotine herself, crippling debt, and single motherhood in Paris during the Terror; and then ambivalently entering into a marriage of convenience with Napoleon at the end of this first volume. I'll continue with the trilogy, and maybe afterwards read a biography to see what was true and what was made up. But first, the imagined life . . .

  • Allison (The Allure of Books)
    2019-03-19 17:32

    I really enjoyed this story; I'm already looking forward to the next one.Sanrda Gulland takes you seamlessly through the many different stages of Rose's (Josephine's) life. From her Creole upbringing to her marriage to a French rebel to her imprisonment to her introduction to the sallow and ungainly, yet determined Napoleon Bonaparte. It was a thrilling story! I have never seen the French Revolution from any point of view besides the King and Queen.The only thing that keeps the story from being 5 stars is the lack of a deep emotional connection. Even though it is written as a diary account, I never feel like she really shares Rose's thoughts and emotions as deeply as she could have. Nevertheless, it is a fantastic story.