Josephine: A Life of the Empress
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Josephine: A Life of the Empress

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  383 ratings  ·  52 reviews
In 1804, when 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 façade. To her subjects, she appeared to vet hew most favored woman in France: alluring, wealthy, and with the devoted love of a remarkable husband who was the conqueror of Europe....more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published August 17th 2000 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published March 31st 1999)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Josephine, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Josephine

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 755)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Naomi
I listened to the audiobook version of this. I spent the first few chapters confused as to why I was listening the a biography of some chick named Rose Tascher from Martinique. Clearly I was not familiar at all with the subject. I had to Google Rose de Beauharnaise to find out they were the same person. Derf. This was a really revealing story and so sad for both Josephine and Napolean, but not in the tragic, romantic way I had previously heard and partially remember from the tv miniseries in the...more
London SE4
As they say, behind a great man there is a great woman. Josephine had a remarkable life, from her youth in luscious, exotic Martinique, to a loveless arranged marriage in Paris. We see her pulling through constant worries, lack of money, the French Revolution, prison and politics, children to raise and the execution of her husband, Alexandre de Beauharnais.
A young widow, surrounded by rich friends and lovers, always elegantly dressed. she was not beautiful, but fascinating, full of grace and swe...more
Linda
Carolly Erickson has made a career of writing biographies of history's female royalty. Josephine tells the story of the legendary Josephine Beauharnais Bonaparte. Born of impoverished minor aristocrats who grew sugar cane on island of Martinique, Josephine, then called Rose, grew up far from the grandeur of the Paris of Louis XVI and Maria Antoinette. Her childhood was an indolent one, steeped in the magic of the Caribbean, and her formal education was mediocre at best. When it came time for mar...more
Kate Lawrence
Erickson is a fine writer who maintains admirable focus and pace in recounting an amazing life. She combines a sympathetic, almost novelistic style with solid research, documented in endnotes.
Josephine's rise from an impoverished girl from the boondocks (the tiny island of Martinique) to the empress of France shows what can be accomplished with beauty and savvy social skills plus a fortuitous aristocratic connection. Despite her fame, glamor and wealth though, who would want to change places wit...more
MissSusie
When I got this book I thought it was historical fiction, when it arrived it said it was a biography. So I thought ok but even as I was reading it I wasn't sure if it was a novel or a biography, it definitely reads like a novel.

I guess I didn't know much about Josephine when I started this book but I always thought that Napoleon & Josephine had this great love story but according to this book that’s not the case.

It was ok it did read like a novel at first then got a bit boring towards the en...more
Simon
Dull for the most part, and when you think about her subject, that's pretty damning. Erickson, who churns these kind of books out like a factory, gives Josephine's life the once-over-lightly treatment. Things that do not particularly surprise the reader: Napoleon was a difficult man to have as a husband. Ya think? Although I did laugh out loud at the sheer low-comedy of it all. Read the description of His Imperial Majesty on a horse trying to get Her Imperial Majesty in a carriage to jump a ravi...more
Steena
I do not have a large interest in Josephine Bonaparte but found this book easily digestible and a great source of interesting information on the one-time Empress of France. It was not, as I thought, historical fiction but a true biography. Much to my enjoyment it was a very descriptive and entertaining biography. I enjoyed the audio book immensely and might not have found it so engaging as a print read.
Byron
One of my good friends has had a long time obsession with Napoleon Bonaparte. He knows details about Napoleon that I don't know about myself. He owns some Napoleon memorabilia. He may even be Napoleon reincarnated... there is evidence to this effect.

I went in search of a book about Napoleon and stumbled on this book. I decided it looked sufficiently interested, and since I knew absolutely nothing about either Napoleon or Josephine other than something about Waterloo, I put it on my wish list.

It...more
Nadine
I think the author assumes too much. Her historical research here is questionable, but the book was readable nonetheless.
Lora
I enjoyed learning about Josephine and Napoleon's life and about the social, political, and historical events of France during that time. The book made me more curious to read other author's works on the above subjects. Did not find the read dull, but was amazed at how marriage was viewed socially as compared to my present day "Christian" view.

Erickson placed so many interesting facts about that time period. Tidbits included of interest were the social prison life, the macabre parties held by so...more
Mazohyst
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Donna
I like history, but I don't like 800 page tomes full of facts and statistics written by and for college professors. What I like is to absorb my history second hand, like through a biography. I decided that my knowledge of the French Revolution and the Empire could use some shoring up, so I picked up this biography, which did a wonderful job through a detailed, but vivid and engaging account of the life of Josephine.

There are about 50 Napoleon bios for every Josephine bio, but all the Napoleon o...more
Sybil Lucas
It was an easy book to read. I sort of lost interest towards the end. The writer fills up each page with very descriptive, believable imagery. It is that very thing that becomes tiresome towards the end. Each detail is fleshed out and brought to life - which can be a great tool in developing a story, but gets old pretty quick. I learned a great deal about this intriguing woman. I had no idea about her rich, troubled life in France. She was a true survivor and I appreciate that in a heroine or he...more
Victoria
This is the best biography of the three I've read. While it doesn't downplay the more scandalous behavior, it does not succumb to salacious gossip. This woman endured horrendous experiences, adapted to them, made them work for her, took care of herself and her children, and thrived in various alien environments. This all happened before she met Bonaparte. What she overcame could crush most people. She was an amazing woman who rose to the occasion. That's a bad pun because Rose was her real name....more
Jodi
Josephine endured, withstood and died with dignity. I not know about France's history....it was a tremendous history lesson for the reader; during her lifetime. And insightful opinion about the young country called "Americana"
Giornata_di_sole
Biografia interessante, ben scritta e molto documentata... Giuseppina e' descritta come una donna gentile e generosa, affascinante, capace di adattarsi ad ogni cambiamento e superare le molteplici difficolta'...dopo un primo disastroso e sofferto matrimonio conosce l'indipendenza e le frivolezze del periodo prerivoluzionario; subisce le persecuzioni del Terrore; inizialmente e’ il grande amore di Napoleone per poi divenirne una vittima; ama molto gli animali e i fiori; beneficia degli splendori...more
Powder River Rose
I had to quit reading this as I'm not sure the story has anything to do with Josephine, sounds more like a sugar family in martinique. Maybe it would get better but.... I wanted a story about the empress. Possibly this was the "get the history" part but it was poorly written and narrated.
TJ
What a life! Her story should be made into a movie. She lived and prospered through very interesting times and her story is extremely fascinating.
Christopher
I enjoyed this book by a (usually) reliable biographer. My only hesitation, here, is that I didn't find the subject of the work nearly as interesting as the times in which she lived. Perhaps her character is simply dwarfed by that of Napoleon. That being said, this book provides a fascinating glimpse into the most turbulent periods of French history often through the eyes of a very human, often flawed, woman who, though not brilliant, managed to be the ultimate survivor.
Digne
This is the book that started my Josephine craze. Although, I've now read several others books on Josephine that are more scholarly (there are a couple things in this book which fall into the more rumor than fact category) this book is written in a style that quickly pulls you in. I found the book to read almost like fiction. If you think history is boring, think again! The life story of Empress Josephine is compelling even if you already know how it all ends.
Jillian
Feb 07, 2008 Jillian rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs/scandel chasers
Wow! Really interesting-like a cross between the Tudors and the Scarlett Pimpernel I guess you could say-so if you like those kinda scandalous history books you will love this. Poor Josephine-money does not buy happiness, lol...marriage wasn't fun back in the day is the moral to this story. Great read-really well written. I'm thinking about reading all of this author's books now.
Nancy
An intersting biography of Empress Josephine, Napoleon's consort, that focuses on her personal life rather than on French history. Lush descriptions of her wardrobe, entertainments, homes, food and parties, and Josephine's continuing promiscuity even after their marriage make this an entertaining popular biography rather than a work of scholarly research.
Sabrina
I was pleasantly surprised by this biography, which shows the dark world in which Empress Josephine found herself having to navigate, and illuminates the 17th/18th century European use of arranged marriage to promote family wealth and social position. Well written and engaging.
Beth
Josephine was not the person I expected. She was a quiet, modest person placed in extraordinary circumstances, and she evolved to be someone else. She was a survivor--but she gave up a lot of herself in the process. An interesting and thought provoking read.
Lindsay
Dec 03, 2007 Lindsay rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: biography or history lovers
I retain so much more of history lessons when the writer makes an effort to turn it into a narrative. Erickson did a great job with this, and exposes Josephine's low birth and Napoleon's obsession with dynasty. Entertaining and informative.
Amanda
Interesting, well written. I personally had trouble empathizing with Josephine but that wasn't because the book was well written. A good overview of her life and a good read for anyone curious about Josephine Bonaparte.
Midnight Agenda
Very good. I appreciate how the author admits when she didn't have enough info to say what happened and when what she is writing is pure conjecture.
It still reads like a story, but it is based on historical accurateness.
AmblingBooks
"An intimate, richly detailed, and candid portrait." � Kirkus Reviews

Listen to Josephine on your iPhone, desktop, or smartphone.
Ericubear72
Nov 26, 2008 Ericubear72 rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone who likes Bio's
Recommended to Ericubear72 by: Christopher
Really enjoyed this piece. Erickson has the gift of writing about the subject in such a way that it not only tells the story accurately but very dramatically. Looking forward to more form her.
Nicole Marble
Interesting woman - she married 'down' when she married Napoleon, and then hecame to feel he was the one who married beneath him.
It presents a pictures of several charismatic but unpleasant people.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 25 26 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Rose of Martinique: A Life of Napoleon's Josephine
  • Catherine of Aragon
  • Love and Louis XIV: The Women in the Life of the Sun King
  • Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart
  • Athenais: The Life of Louis XIV's Mistress, the Real Queen  Of France
  • Versailles: A Biography of a Palace
  • Betsy Ross and the Making of America
  • Mistress of the Elgin Marbles: A Biography of Mary Nisbet, Countess of Elgin
  • Michael and Natasha: The Life and Love of Michael II, the Last of the Romanov Tsars
  • The Romanovs: Autocrats of All the Russians
  • Lucrezia Borgia
  • The Serpent and the Moon: Two Rivals for the Love of a Renaissance King
  • Arbella: England's Lost Queen
  • The Secret Wife of King George IV
  • The Virgin Queen: Elizabeth I, Genius Of The Golden Age
  • Evita: The Real Life of Eva Peron
  • Ladies in Waiting: From the Tudors to the Present Day
  • The Lady Penelope: The Lost Tale of Love and Politics in the Court of Elizabeth I
6597
Distinguished historian Carolly Erickson is the author of The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette, The First Elizabeth, Great Catherine, Alexandra and many other prize-winning works of fiction and nonfiction. She lives in Hawaii.

http://us.macmillan.com/author/caroll...
More about Carolly Erickson...
The Last Wife of Henry VIII The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette Bloody Mary: The Life of Mary Tudor The Tsarina's Daughter Rival to the Queen

Share This Book