Michelle's Reviews > The Second Empress: A Novel of Napoleon's Court

The Second Empress by Michelle Moran
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Oct 16, 12

bookshelves: forpleasure, forreview, historicalfiction
Read in October, 2012

While I don't claim to be an expert on French history, I enjoyed reading how one author saw the times based on her assessment of what she gathered to support her story line. The Second Empress was an intense, well-written novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. I found it very intriguing for a variety of reasons. For one, it held my attention because of the rich historical setting and many details included in each chapter. Even though the story was set in early 1800s France, in some ways the scenario Moran portrayed reminded me of the downfall of Rome centuries earlier.

Napoleon had many excesses and eccentricities; the relationship with his sister being the most disturbing. His family had to be the poster child for dysfunction in that day, especially when it came to marriage and infidelity. It seemed married people had more contact with lovers than spouses in Napoleon's court. Since that was the way of things, I didn't find it surprising that venereal disease was commonplace for promiscuous courtiers. At the time they didn't know how to cure it, so people suffered horribly from a variety of ineffective treatments including the use of Mercury.

I find European history quite fascinating from the Middle Ages all the way through modern times. In The Second Empress I appreciated the many historical details included by the author as well as reading the letters that supported portions of the plot. I have always empathized with people who were forced to marry to preserve kingdom and country.

I enjoy reading things like the "afterward" at the end of a historical novel and the supporting facts from history that a novel includes. Yes, event weird activities like women being used as human footstools was documented, so Moran included a scene in the book with that exact scenario. From reading this novel I can't help but conclude that the entire Bonaparte family was power hungry and incredibly selfish. The author portrayed that well.

All in all this was an engaging novel that fascinated me with its depth. I had a hard time putting it down. I appreciated how the author used a variety of perspectives to show different situations that troubled Marie-Louise (The Second Empress) and others during that tumultuous time period. Lovers of historical fiction will enjoy reading this book. Whether all the historical facts are true or not? Well, I always keep in mind that this is fiction.
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