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Publisher's Summary

When, in 1804, Josephine Bonaparte knelt before her husband Napoleon to receive the imperial diadem, few in the vast crowd of onlookers were aware of the dark secrets hidden behind the imperial facade. To her subjects she appeared to be the most favored woman in France: alluring, wealthy, and with the devoted love of a remarkable husband who was the conqueror of Europe. In actuality Josephine's life was far darker, for her celebrated allure was fading, her wealth was compromised by massive debt, and her marriage was corroded by infidelity and abuse.

Josephine's life story was as turbulent as the age, an era of revolution and social upheaval, of the guillotine and of frenzied hedonism. With telling psychological depth and compelling literary grace, Carolly Erickson brings the complex, charming, ever resilient Josephine to life in this memorable portrait, one that carries the reader from the sensual richness of her childhood in the tropics to her final lonely days at Malmaison.

©1998 Carolly Erickson (P)2000 Blackstone Audiobooks

Critic Reviews

"An intimate, richly detailed, and candid portrait." (Kirkus Reviews)

What listeners say about Josephine

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for DPM
  • DPM
  • 07-03-2008

Engaging

On the one hand, this book straddles the line between history and historical novel. There is a LOT of " she must have felt" or "she no doubt was feeling". If that does not bother you ( and it did not me) then I recommend it without hesitation just for the story alone - a very interesting biography of a woman constantly adapting to survive, first to the turmoil of France during the revolution, then to being the wife of a compelling ( but difficult) figure in world history. Good narratioon - takes a little bit to get used to ( she seemed a bit flat at the beginning) but that soon gave way to the story itself

27 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Anna Ballard
  • 04-04-2011

What an interesting subject!

I have long been fascinated by Josephine Bonaparte and I am eager to read anything about her. Had I not previously read Sandra Gulland's trilogy on Josephine I may have given this book a higher rating. Gulland's books are impossible to put down, and I am afraid it'll be hard for any book on Josephine to match up to those.

However, this book was interesting, better than her novel on Marie Antoinette, and the reader was pleasant to listen to. I would recommend this audio book.

10 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Ingelin
  • 29-07-2010

Agreeable starting point

There are probably both better and more inferior books, than this one, about Josephine, or the revolutionary and napoleonic era in general. But as a introduction to a historic person, which I realized I had no knowledge about when I bought the book, it worked marvelous. Sometimes the author seems to be taking some liberties. She also seems to be be fimly in Josephine's camp at all time. But I didn't find this intruding upon an enjoyable and flowing narrative concerning the woman who appears to have wielded more real social power before her marriage to Napoleon, than she did in it or as empress. It certainly commenced a greater interest in the era for my part.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Eva Piercefield
  • 25-12-2017

Dull

I was disappointed by this book. The reader was dispassionate, her monotone during even the most exciting parts of the story was distracting and ruined the pacing. Also, I feel that the author had strong biased against Napoleon. She was quick to emphasize every wrong that the emperor did to his wife, but overlooked the many things Josephine did to him. For instance, when Napoleon wrote romantic notes to his wife early in their marriage, she would mockingly read them out loud to her guests. Theirs was a troubled marriage, and I found it disappointing that the author chose sides because it gives an incomplete view of the subject. To me this book was maybe appropriate for people newly interested in this time period, but if you already know a lot about the Bonapartes and their times, this book is going to bore you.

5 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Barbara Marks
  • 01-09-2008

Biased, but a good read.

This book reads like fiction, the narrator was wonderful, and I found myself completely immersed in the ever changing life of this amazing woman. When Josephine died and the book ended, I almost felt like I lost a friend. However, be warned: this book is very biased. Josephine wasn't a saint and she wasn't always the victim. I will be following this book with a biography of Napoleon to get another view of their marriage. Good book, good narrator... I highly recommend it to anyone.

3 people found this helpful

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  • H H
  • 26-04-2021

A little confusing for the first 13 chapters

13 chapters in it was finally revealed that Rose is actually Josephine. For those first 13 chapters I was wondering when the book would introduce the main character. Probably would’ve helped to set that up earlier in the book so readers don’t sit there and wonder for so long. Other than that it was an interesting book

2 people found this helpful

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  • MB
  • 13-08-2021

So interesting!

I knew very little of Josephine but am glad I do now. What an interesting, sad, joyous, glamorous, painful life she had.

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  • Geek not nerd
  • 26-07-2021

Okay

The narration was clear and even. There was no need for any accents, so the narrator did a great job. The story seemed to contradict itself. At times Josephine was with despair about Bonaparte, her future, health, traveling, or whatever. In other parts of the book; however, she would “always have courage no matter what the situation.”Josephine seems like a greedy, shallow, whiny person and this book wanted to defend her. The parts that were “filled in” about how Josephine must have felt or thought were all to support Josephine and put her in a positive light, making excuses for her poor choices.

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  • Terence Lowery
  • 13-07-2021

A great legend is revealed

This is one women in history I would have loved to have met. Of course I would be in a very long queue of the most majestic royals of her time.

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  • Elizabeth J Ebersohn
  • 11-05-2021

Well told

Highly recommended. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is well written and the reading was excellent.


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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • h
  • 08-12-2012

Wonderful.

Brilliantly written and beautifully read. A fascinating life spanning one of the most turbulent periods of history. Sometimes you want to deepen your understanding of history and sometimes you just want an exciting bedtime story. This is both!

4 people found this helpful

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  • Lynn Cage
  • 05-04-2016

Dreary

I found this book very factual. If I had been reading it and not listening I don't think I would have got past the first chapter

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  • Shaun V. Hewitt
  • 24-10-2021

Yes, tonight Josephine

I've always found Josephine an enigmatic character, but have only ever known the basic facts. Now I am an expert. This book is so well written, spanning effortlessly the fact giving and the entertainment, whilst bringing to life the French court of the period with great atmosphere.
The one very disappointing aspect is the narration. S Patricia Bailey has a shrill voice that could shatter glass, except when she is 'doing' the voice of Napoleon, when she does a very creditable impression of an angry cartoon whale. Her pronunciation of several word is highly entertaining too, but maybe that is how French words are pronounced in America. Oh, I forgot to mention that she is American. Nothing wrong with that of course, I just prefer European history read by a European voice.
This has whetted my appetite to learn more about the Napoleonic period.

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  • Elizabeth Riches
  • 19-10-2021

Josephine by Carolyn Erickson

This is not just a recounting of a life in extraordinary times, but a compassionate telling of the story of a hapless woman caught up in momentous events. It took me a while to adjust to the slightly low key delivery of the narrator, but once that was overcome, I think it was the right approach. A tabloid , hysterical delivery wouldn’t have improved the narrative. It’s an amazing story with many parallels in modern political events and one that I , personally , found completely compelling.

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