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Publisher's Summary

From the award-winning historian: the remarkable life of "the most beautiful woman of 19th-century Baltimore", whose marriage in 1803 to Jérôme Bonaparte, the youngest brother of Napoleon, became inextricably bound to the diplomatic and political 19th-century histories of the United States, France, and England. From the author of Revolutionary Mothers and Civil War Wives. In Wondrous Beauty, Carol Berkin tells the story of this audacious, outsize life: how her romantic, passionate marriage infuriated Napoleon and resulted in his banning the then-pregnant Betsy Bonaparte from disembarking in any European port, demanding that his brother either lose all power and remain married to that "American girl" - or renounce her, marry a woman of Napoleon's choice, and reap the benefits. Jérôme ended the marriage and was made king of Westphalia; Betsy fled to England, and gave birth to her son and only child, Jérôme's namesake. Berkin writes how this naive, headstrong American girl returned to Baltimore a cynical, independent woman, refusing to seek social redemption and return to obscurity through a quiet marriage to a member of Baltimore's merchant class; how she disdained America's obsession with money-making, its growing ethos of democracy, and the rigid gender roles that confined women to the parlor and the nursery, and sought a European society where women created salons devoted to intellectual life and where traditions of aristocracy dominated society; and, we see how as a shrewd investor she transformed a modest pension from the French government into a fortune that rivaled many a (male) financier.

©2014 Carol Berkin (P)2014 Recorded Books

Critic Reviews

"Incisive, thoughtful, spiced with vivid anecdotes. Don't miss it."-Thomas Fleming, "Utterly fresh, sensitive, poignant, thoroughly fascinating."-Jay Winik

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