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Pauline Bonaparte: Venus of Empire

3.23  ·  Rating details ·  154 Ratings  ·  22 Reviews
From acclaimed biographer Flora Fraser, the brilliant life of Napoleon’s favorite sister. Celebrated for her looks, notorious for her passions, immortalized by Antonio Canova’s statue, and always deeply loyal to her brother, Pauline Bonaparte Borghese is a fascinating figure in her own right.

At the turn of the nineteenth century, she was considered by many to be the mo
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published February 24th 2009 by Knopf (first published 2009)
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Feb 19, 2010 rated it it was ok
Not a bad read but felt there was a lot of acceptance as fact over some of the rumors that circulated about the Bonaparte family with no proof to support the rumors given by the author. I’ll use the most obvious example to explain my point with Fraser’s dealing with the rumors of incest between Napoleon and Pauline. The author states "it seems almost inevitable, given their strong sex drives…, their mutual affection, their clannish affinity, that they should have experimented sexually together." ...more
Apr 21, 2009 rated it it was ok
I'm giving 2 stars not because of the writing (I read Flora Fraser's book "Princesses" and really liked it) but because of the subject. Pauline Bonaparte was certainly a colorful personality, but in the end, not much more than that. It was interesting to learn about the Bonaparte family (a part of history I am sadly lacking much education in) but in the end, Bonaparte is, well, I'd say the Paris Hilton of her generation but, as much as it pains me to say this, I think Paris Hilton has accomplish ...more
Jan 27, 2011 rated it liked it
Pauline Bonaparte is not a likable person. There it is. Imagine the snottiest most annoying girl in high school, only then give her a brother who is in charge of the greater part of europe, and you have Pauline Bonaparte.

The book was fine I guess. I never felt swept away by the story, and at times I checked EXACTLY how many pages I had left. The author felt that it was important to use $3 words when a nickel one would have done not only as well, but better.

The larger problem is that although we
Gerry Germond
Mar 10, 2017 rated it did not like it
Her epitaph should have read "Lovely and loyal." She was both. But she was as flighty as a sparrow and so is this biography, which fails to answer the "so what" question. Well, perhaps it proves that Kardashians have always been with us.
Aug 08, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, history
This book was a quick and enjoyable read on a figure who took part on the sidelines of world-changing events. Pauline Borghese was Napoleon's sister, inspired a beautiful statute and other imperial French art, helped fund her brother's campaigns through her advantageous marriage to an Italian prince, and was arguably as devoted to him and the legendary Josephine. I've read reviews that criticize this book because Pauline was not especially likeable, but I think that's beside the point. No, I pro ...more
Aileen Ng
Nov 29, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Pauline Bonaparte is lucky to have Napoleon Bonaparte as her brother. Without him, she might end up being a nobody or worst, beheaded for committing adultery and having so many scandalous affairs. Her life is the life of the rich and famous. She is very beautiful and very fashionable but she is also spoilt and cruel. She didn't achieve any high achievements. Her only merit is her utmost loyalty towards her brother, Napoleon Bonaparte.

This book didn't manage to thrill me because it tells more of
L.  (You're No Science-Terrorist!)
Nov 07, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
I see no reason why this woman merited a book all about her. Other than sleeping with any man that walked by, Pauline Bonaparte really does nothing. Because Pauline isn't that important to history, author Flora Fraser writes more about other people and happenings during this turbulent time, making her main subject actually more of a supporting player. It's a very dry read - no juicy tidbits to savor. It's a quick read, it just took me so long to finish because I kept being distracted by other, b ...more
Robbi Leah  Freeman
Sep 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Read after The Second Empress Moran. I'm a fan of historical fiction and this biography just didn't work for me. I knew most of it from The Second Empress and in that book it was part fiction but was more enjoyable. Where as, I was hoping to learn more about Pauline and I learned more about where she was traveling or what she was buying while Napoleon's wars were given more detail then her. The only new facts I learned from this book was what she did after her brother died and who got what in he ...more
Apr 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Pauline Bonaparte had very pretty feet and had lots of sex. Interesting insight in to the Bonaparte family. This is a personal biography and is light on politics. If that suits you, this is for you. If you want more war and political intrigue, look elsewhere. If Pauline wasn't off romping with her latest lover, she was nursing her poor health; she didn't have much to do with politics in France unless you count how much she benefited from her brother's rise to power.
Nov 11, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A really disappointing read. It's a short book, but I feel like there were maybe ten little anecdotes about Pauline herself and the rest was just meaningless filler. I didn't feel like I got to know her at all and just walked away with a few facts like how she liked to rest her feet on her servant's throats. There is so much material here for an interesting story (she was the sister of Napoleon for goodness sake!), but somehow the writer missed the mark. Not worth your time.
Sarah Wagner
Oct 09, 2013 rated it liked it
A good overview of Pauline Bonaparte's life. While Pauline never makes for dull reading, I do wish the author had ventured to provide more definitive answers about some aspects of Pauline's life. For example, rumors are mentioned of an affair between Pauline and her brother Napoleon, but Fraser refrains from addressing the truth of these rumors, leaving the reader with maybe or maybe not as the biographer's take on the rumors. Nevertheless, very entertaining.
Dec 16, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
I was only able to make it through a chapter and a half of this book before I put it down from sheer boredom. (I would like to note that it was because of the subject matter and not the writing.) From what little I did read, I gathered that this woman's claim to fame was that she was pretty. She didn't seem to do anything noteworthy to warrant having a book written about her. Very tedious.
Kay Robart
Jun 12, 2013 rated it liked it
Fraser’s biography is interesting and well written. I found Pauline to be a fascinating subject, although not an admirable person.

See my complete review her:
Jun 24, 2009 rated it liked it
This was good on the period and the background, rather repetitive about Pauline B herself. Did I miss information on her childhood? (I started reading it on a plane) but was surprised by later references to her and her mother's straitened circumstances.
Mary Ann
Aug 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Fascinating, insightful & well written. Recommend.
Jul 04, 2012 rated it liked it
I didn't know a thing about this period in french history.
i did see her Pauline's famous statue at the Borghese Palace in Rome, it was gorgeous !
Rosie Beck
Mar 14, 2009 rated it liked it
Sister to Bonaparte-vain, capricious, loyal (to Bonaparte,not her husbands)-this is a good story of her life and times
Jim Colombo
Aug 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Famous people acting badly! Very interesting!
Jan 11, 2012 rated it it was ok
Why is it the witches of the world have every man drooling over them? The author made no argument for Napoleon Bonaparte's sister being likable in any way -- except to her brother.
Jan 24, 2013 rated it did not like it
This book adds very little to Pauline's bibliography. Is just gossip and contains surprising inaccuracies for a non fiction book.
Julia F. Simon
Aug 02, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I may be biased, since I've never understood the fascination about Pauline, whom I find uninteresting in extreme. The book itself is gossipy and not entirely accurate.
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Elizabeth Voss
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Sep 07, 2013
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Mar 27, 2013
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Mar 29, 2013
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Oct 16, 2015
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Jul 11, 2010
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Apr 20, 2009
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Flora Fraser Soros (born 30 October 1958) is an English writer of historical biographies.

She is the daughter of historian and historical biographer Lady Antonia Fraser and the late Sir Hugh Fraser, a British Conservative politician. Her stepfather was the playwright Harold Pinter, the 2005 Nobel Laureate in Literature, her mother's second husband until his death in 2008. Her maternal grandparents
More about Flora Fraser...

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