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The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B.

(Josephine Bonaparte #1)

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  15,151 ratings  ·  865 reviews
Young Josephine Bonaparte shines at the center of a new, sweeping, romantic work of historical fiction by Sandra Gulland: detailed and exhaustively researched, compelling and powerful, The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. is the first in a trilogy of fictional novels tracing the actual rise of a young European noblewoman who would one day stand next to Napoleo ...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published August 3rd 1999 by Atria Books (first published 1995)
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4.10  · 
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 ·  15,151 ratings  ·  865 reviews

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Feb 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lod, i-said, top

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
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars, just a smidgen under a 5 perfection. The form of diary and letters with footnotes was superb. It worked for me far more than other fiction narrative forms. Rose's writing is indicative of her character, her core, so intensely that it gave a window in itself.

But the eyes were the substance here. This is history and circumstance as it was seen, not as it was later or further interpreted. And I don't need a middle man to interpret history for me. First source material is the thing!! The
Feb 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was ok
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
The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. is never tiring, always compelling, a definite page-turner. Truly recommend it!!! Full review you can find on my blog:
Jul 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 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:
Aug 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing

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
Jan 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Jun 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Jess The Bookworm
Sep 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
This novel takes a look at the life of Josephine Bonaparte, before she was Josephine Bonaparte. The story begins on the French island called Martinique, where a young woman called Rose dreams of going to Paris one day.

Rose is offered in marriage to Alexandre de Beauharnais, an up and coming political figure for the French Revolution, and the story follows her life as she moves to France, becomes a married woman, and deals with life in a politically tumultuous France.

The book is written by way of
Carole P. Roman
Jun 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
An interesting, fun and fast read.
Jun 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
This historical fiction novel about Josephine Bonaparte (throughout the story known as 'Rose'...until Napoleon prefers her as 'Josephine') kept my interest all the way through. Beginning with her life on a sugar plantation in the Caribbeans, Rose is only a young teenager when a fortune teller predicts she will someday become queen. Her first marriage brings a son and daughter, but Rose is disappointed with her husband's indifference to her and eventual infidelities.

"In church we learned that th
Cheeky Cher
2.5 stars - It was alright, an average book.

I read this mainly because I find Napoleon Bonaparte to be a fascinating historical figure that I would like to know more about, including what type of older woman was able to divert his laser focused attention. Sadly, he did not come into the picture until the last few pages. Though those scenes were interesting so I will most likely continue the series.

As for this installment of the series, it focused primarily on her childhood and first husband who
Kate Forsyth
Jan 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Laura by: Lilly Flora
The first book of this trilogy. A excellent research work by Sandra Gulland which cannot be missed.
Jul 12, 2017 rated it liked it
This was an interesting read and I learned a lot about the woman who would become Josephine Bonaparte that I did not know. I don't know that it will ever be a book that I revisit since I find the details of the French Revolution to be horrific. Stories that engage my attention often stay with me for days after I finish them and affect my mood for either good or ill. While parts of this tale are pleasant and all of it is informative, some was very upsetting because it is based on factual events ...more
Alison Swearingen
Dec 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recommend
Fascinating and easy to read, this book tells the start of the story of Josephine Bonaparte. I’m not usually one for diary-entry type novels, but this one is not disjointed at all and reads more like a regular novel. Josephine (or Rose) is very interesting to read about through all her struggles, and I’m intrigued to see where the next two books go.
Mary Fleming
May 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommended by my granddaughter this is an excellent story set in Revolutionary Paris The details esp of ladies fashion were amazing - great research here. I shall look forward to the other two books in the trilogy. Thanks Carrie.
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This trilogy is incredible. I read these sometime around 2003, and they'll be well worth another read at some point!
Nov 20, 2008 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Wendy Dunn
Jul 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 22, 2010 rated it liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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
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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 has been published in 17 countries.

The Trilogy was followed by MISTRESS OF THE SUN and then THE SHADOW QUEEN, a "sister" novel. Both novels are set in the Court of Louis XIV, the Sun King.

THE GAME OF HOPE, a Young Adult novel about Josephine B

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)
“A feeling of disquiet continues to haunt me. As a youth one dreams of love; by the time one wakes, it is too late.” 10 likes
“I play out the cards. They say: This is Heaven, this is Hell. It is one.” 8 likes
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