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The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. (Josephine Bonaparte #1)

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  12,762 Ratings  ·  773 Reviews
In this first of three books inspired by the life of Josephine Bonaparte, Sandra Gulland has created a novel of immense and magical proportions. We meet Josephine in the exotic and lush Martinico, where an old island woman predicts that one day she will be queen. The journey from the remote village of her birth to the height of European elegance is long, but Josephine's fo ...more
Paperback, 356 pages
Published September 2nd 1999 by Headline Review (first published 1995)
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Feb 01, 2016 Arah-Lynda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: top, lod, i-said

History is Fiction. - Robespierre

This 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 m
Feb 06, 2008 Kyla rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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)
Apr 25, 2011 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Ultimate Reading List
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 stron ...more
Jun 15, 2016 Gary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 11, 2010 Shane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ch
Dec 05, 2012 Sandra rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels-by-me
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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:
Carole Roman
Jun 08, 2013 Carole Roman rated it it was amazing
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 throug ...more
Aug 24, 2009 Chrissie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I 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 nam
Sep 11, 2011 Phyllis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 w ...more
Amy Bruno
C'est magnifique!!!
Jul 23, 2015 Myriam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting, fun and fast read.
Wendy Dunn
Jul 11, 2015 Wendy Dunn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 int
Jan 18, 2013 Kerri rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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, s ...more
Kate Forsyth
Jan 08, 2012 Kate Forsyth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
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 guil ...more
Jan 23, 2008 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Apr 30, 2013 Heidi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 10, 2013 Tudor Robins rated it it was amazing
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.
Mar 14, 2008 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: Lilly Flora
The first book of this trilogy. A excellent research work by Sandra Gulland which cannot be missed.
Nov 20, 2008 Karen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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 ...more
Mar 02, 2009 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 lookin
Mar 12, 2008 KyleeJ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of historical fiction
"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 ...more
Mar 16, 2011 Sharmila rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Allison (The Allure of Books)
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
A thoroughly enjoyable book. I don't know what took me so long to read it in the first place, but I'm glad I finally got around to it. A quick read primarily due to the diary format, containing relatively short entries. Rich in history and detail. Engaging. Rose is a role model for all women with her indefatigable efforts to save and protect her friiends during this significant period in French History. Her faithfulness to all in her life was a testament to her honorable and loving character. De ...more
Sep 21, 2009 Shelby rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like period books and historical fiction and this filled both of those. This is the first of 3 books telling about the life of Napolean's wife through her journal entries. I loved the first half of the book but then it got too much into French politics that were going on during the French Revolution and the author has too many characters that are hard to keep track of. I think she drops the names because it's all a part of history, but it just makes it a bit confusing. Admittedly, I skimmed so ...more
This is the first book in a three book series about Josephine Bonaparte's life. This book was interesting and so I will continue to read the series. This particular book follows Josephine's (Rose) life as a young girl all the way until she meets and marries Napoleon. It has been an informative book regarding the French Revolution although I admit all the French names mentioned (which I can't pronounce) sometimes leaves me a bit confused as to what exactly is happening politically. Josephine, acc ...more
May 12, 2009 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. I read it last year and am finally reading the sequal and anxiously anticipating the third and last book in the series. It's an in depth look at the life of Josephine Bonaparte. This first book starts when she is born in the Caribbean up until she meets Napoleon in France. In between she barely survived the French Revolution. It is historical fiction, and the author did much research including diaries and letters of Josephine's. And that is how the books are written, as diary ...more
This was not a book I was expecting to enjoy so much since I thought it would be too romanticized. I had purchased the trilogy for mother on the recommendation of a friend. My mother loved all of the books and said they were quick reads.

Besides being a quick, fun read, what impressed me about the Josephine books was how well researched they are. This is obviously a work of fiction but fiction based on a strong foundation of fact. The fiction just serves to enhance the history, making it more per
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I'm the author of the JOSEPHINE B. TRILOGY, the internationally best-selling novels based on the life of Josephine Bonaparte, Napoleon's wife. The Trilogy is now published in 17 countries.

I most recently published THE SHADOW QUEEN, the "sister" novel of MISTRESS OF THE SUN. Both novels are set in the Court of Louis XIV, the Sun King.

An American-Canadian, I was born in Miami, Florida, and lived i
More about Sandra Gulland...

Other Books in the Series

Josephine Bonaparte (3 books)
  • Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe (Josephine Bonaparte, #2)
  • The Last Great Dance on Earth (Josephine Bonaparte, #3)

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“I play out the cards. They say: This is Heaven, this is Hell. It is one.” 8 likes
“He calls me Josephine. He says I'm an angel, a saint, his good lucky star. I know I'm no angel, but in truth I have begun to like this Josephine he sees. She is intelligent; she amuses; she is pleasing. She is grace and charm and heart. Unlike Rose; scared, haunted and needy. Unlike Rose with her sad life.” 8 likes
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