To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. Instead, our system considers things like how recent a review is and if the reviewer bought the item on Amazon. It also analyzes reviews to verify trustworthiness.
Review this product
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
3.0 out of 5 starsAn Appetizer Only
Reviewed in the United States on November 16, 2019
Once again, I started reading this book without realizing it was the first of three. I was intending to find some HF about Josephine's love affair with Napoleon, but she has barely met him when this book ends. The first volume was not interesting enough to keep me reading on. Writing in the first person as excerpts from Josephine's diary is a creative approach, but she is not self-reflective enough to give much of a picture of her psychology. The entries deal primarily with gossip about her friends and persons she meets in the salon society of the French Revolution. She has much more to say about who was wearing what at so-and-so's private dinner than about the historical backdrop on which the action plays out. From what is here, it is hard to determine what about her was so intriguing as to have captivated the attention of many men of political power at this time, much less Bonaparte himself. The most interesting part of this book for me was Josephine's descriptions of her childhood raised on a Caribbean plantation. The residences she took up after moving to France to live with relatives do not merit the time she takes detailing them. Overall, a quick read, but not what I was looking for.
The era of Napoleon and Josephine of France has always been one of my favorite times in history. The author brings Josephine to life, and for the first time we see her a living person. We know what history taught us about her, but it didn’t teach us who she really was and why she became the woman she was. This book is written entirely in first person. It’s her words recorded in her diary. Everything we read in the book is seen through Josephine’s eyes. The books that I’ve read about Josephine have begun with her relationship or marriage to Napoleon. I knew very little about her life growing up and her first marriage, and it was intriguing to learn about her life before. History recorded the terrors of the early part of the French revolution. Josephine wrote about the terror of living through that time. She played an essential role in that history. She had close relationships with the men and women who were the key figures in the formation of the new republic. She was a very powerful woman, and that was why Napoleon desired her. I am onto the next book in the series now, and I look forward to reading about the middle period of Josephine’s life.
5.0 out of 5 starsIt was definitely not love at first sight
Reviewed in the United States on May 7, 2016
Josephine Bonaparte was never called by that name until she married Napoleon Bonaparte, who gave her the name "Josephine." Her real name was Rose Tascher and later Beauharnais when she married Alexandre Beauharnais at age 17. She actually had three distinctively different lives, one growing up in Martinique and her first years in France as a new bride and very unequipped to deal with the high French society she found herself in. Then her second life deals with the French Revolution and what she and all the others in her circle had to do to survive it. How she and her children survived is almost miraculous. Her husband did not. Her third life began when she met Napoleon Bonaparte. It was definitely not love at first sight, but he was persistent. During her en tire life, she was surrounded by the effects of war, and went from poverty to Empress with many ups and more downs in-between. Since this book was written as a journal, it is a very personal journey. I loved the details about everyday life during this time, and I learned much more about the French Revolution than I had known before, although I have read many books on the subject of this tragic time. I have read all three books, and I think I may read all three again in the future.
The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. by Sandra Gulland is the first installment in a trilogy about Josephine Bonaparte. The first installment is fascinating, magnetic even, but so many things happen in the book that it feels long, longer than its four hundred-ish pages. The title couldn’t have been different; it pays homage not to a life but to the journey of a woman of modest beginnings who became extraordinary during the times and suffering she endured.
I acknowledge that since the book more or less started with a prophecy I was desperate to see it play out, so much so that when the book became serious—too much so describing the events during The Reign of Terror and Rose and her friends’ incarceration—I felt tempted to leave it aside. It was a history lesson let me tell you, and not the pretty kind. It was ugly and messy and plain terrifying. The Many Lives…feels slow at times, particularly in the parts I have talked about, but it’s so meticulously researched and narrated in first voice –through fictionalized journal entries and family letters-- that it lends a more human perspective to the historical events and figures Gulland describes. The result is historical fiction at its best.
I really liked that Gulland divided Josephine B.’s life in more or less three stages: the early years until she meets Napoleon, the marriage to Napoleon and what happens after. I really liked Josephine, or rather, Rose. Is it wrong that I also liked the Napoleon we got to know here?
In summary, Sandra Gulland’s The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. is vast in scope and scale and meant to be savored as one of the best that historical fiction can offer.
4.0 out of 5 starsFictional First Person Account of the French Revolution
Reviewed in the United States on January 24, 2016
This book is written as a journal, and takes you from Rose's (Josephine) life as a teenager on Martinique, to her marriage to Napolean Bonaparte in France. I love to be drawn in to a story, and I wasn't sure that with the diary styling that would happen. I will say that I have ordered both of the other books in the series though; so by the end of the book I was hooked. It is a very dark period of France's history with the revolution, the imprisonments and beheadings.
5.0 out of 5 starsSwept away on the wings of revolution
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 28, 2014
I liked this novel. The diary format kept the story telling sharp and concise and ensured the reader saw the French Revolution through Josephine's eyes alone. She comes across as the same kind of heroine as Scarlett O'Hara, in Gone with the Wind, albeit one whose actual existence is a matter of fact, but like Scarlett her early life of wealth, privilege and indulgence, is soon swept away by events so vast they cannot be comprehended and she must learn to live by her wits. Unlike Scarlett, at the end of the novel, she knows exactly what 'tomorrow' will bring as she marries the future emperor Napoleon. But that, as they say, is another story.
4.0 out of 5 starsinteresting but difficult to read on kindle
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 1, 2013
I enjoy this trilogy. The author has done a great deal of research. However, the footnotes are cumbersome on the kindle. The link often doesn't connect and you end up turning a page prematurely. When you do connect to the footnote it is disorienting as it takes you to a separate page to read it. The link to return you to your place in the book works, but moves the text to the top of the page, which again is disorienting. I have read this trilogy before in paperback and it is a fluid read. The kindle functions stop the story from flowing.