Monday, February 4, 2008

Babes in History and Fiction: Part 2

I love reading about the lives women led in the past. Partly because it makes me glad I live now and partly to be proud of what my lady ancestors have accomplished. And, let's face it, fiction is way cooler than non-fiction for learning about the past. This series is to clue you in one some of my recent(ish) favorites.

Part 2: The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B., Sandra Gulland
Set in France before, during and after the Revolution, Gulland sets out the life Napoleon's wife led before she became Napoleon's wife. Well, actually it covers her wedding to Napoleon as well as the first few years of their marriage. But most of the book is completely Napoleon-free.

Originally from Martinique, Josephine was shipped to France to marry a rich relative. Unfortunately for her, her husband - Alexandre, Vicomte de Beauharnais - is a flanderer and she spends the bulk of her married life disgraced by his abandonment of herself and their children. But when Alexandre rises to power in the Committee of Public Safety, she supports him and they come to a kind of reconciliation.

Sadly, his popularity with the Committee is short-lived and Josephine is imprisoned almost as soon as she becomes a widow. Her life is saved by a fever which leaves her too weak to be taken to the guillotine, and a short while later, the Reign of Terror comes to an end.

Mostly fascinating because of the deeply personal view of a life affected by the French Revolution, The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows sets the reader up for the second two books of the trilogy examining the rest of Josephine's life which all happened after she'd assumed her life was just about over.

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