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The Rose of Martinique: A Life of Napoleon's Josephine
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The Rose of Martinique: A Life of Napoleon's Josephine

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  362 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
One of the most remarkable women of the modern era, Josephine Bonaparte was born Rose de Tasher on her family's sugar plantation in Martinique. She embodied all the characteristics of a true Creole-sensuality, vivacity, and willfulness. Using diaries and letters, Andrea Stuart expertly re-creates Josephine's whirlwind of a life, which began with an isolated Caribbean child ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published May 16th 2005 by Grove Press (first published 2003)
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Jun 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: napoleon, history
The author states at the beginning that there are 60 biographies on Josephine out there and so much information that "A definitive biography of Josephine is therefore impossible; I offer this only as a general biography with a new accent"--and to this degree the book admirably succeeds. In reading of Josephine's life a lot of ground is covered--poor daughter with no dowry of a decayed French nobility living in a ramshackle sugar plantation in the Caribbean to sad plump bride that was not importa ...more
The Lit Bitch
Feb 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Stuart does a fantastic job of making history read like fiction. Normally there are places in a biographies that I struggle to read through, but Stuart held my attention through each chapter.
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the most remarkable women of our modern era, Josephine Bonaparte! What makes this biography such a good read is the extraordinary TRUE STORY, well told, of Josephine's own life (and the detailed relationship and her eventual marriage with "her" Napoleon), during fascinating, frightening times of the decaying of the ancient régime, through the Terror of the French Revolution itself, and beyond to post-revolutionary Paris. Masterful research done by the author! It's a story worthy of a bloc ...more
Jan 21, 2014 rated it liked it
This book might actually be 2 stars, but the subject matter and her life, no matter how poorly handled and unexceptionally told, is so exceptional in its own right, as to eclipse the shortcomings of the writer. I recently read the trilogy The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. by Sandra Gulland. This trilogy was one of those historical fiction books that is 95% non-fiction/biographical with 5% of fiction used as dialogue. It was a fantastic trilogy. I fell in love with the amazing Jos ...more
Apr 07, 2016 added it
What a fascinating read for getting caught up in a whole different era and then finding the absorption of that detail. There were so many things about this woman that were familiar from my days of fashioning the links between my childhood home and the West Indian home. A time that sent me searching into the histories of both and really diving into issues of identity in the shake up of codes of skin, class and conduct. Gender suddenly squabbled with a long list of factors that seemed to matter ve ...more
Sandi Steinberg
Sep 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in historical biography or Friench or Caribbean history
This is an intelligent, well-researched book that deserved to be reviewed in major US newspapers which it wasn't. (I looked online.)

The author pays particular attention to the history and slave-owning culture of Martinique, where Josephine was born Marie-Josephe-Rose Tascher de la Pagerie, the daughter of a plantation owner who kept 150 slaves. One of the sub-themes of the book, which is quite well handled, is the influence of Martiniquan society on Rose (as her family called her) and the way im
Laura C.
Apr 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This fascinating and intelligently written book by Andrea Scott about the life of Josephine, Napoleon’s great inamorata is going to be very hard for me to return to the library. Josephine was born on the Island of Martinique while it was a French possession. Her real name was Rose de Tasher. Napoleon renamed her Josephine because he could. My temptation is to carry on listing some of the fabulous details of her life, but that would possibly spoil the book for you. Let me just say that I have new ...more
It is often said that behind every great man is a great woman. Such appears to be the case with Josephine nee Rose de Tasher. The author points out the many similarities in the lives of the two individuals. Ms. Stuart does an excellent job of revealing Josephine's adaptability to changing situations, rising to the occasion each time she was placed in position of greater 'responsibility.' Biographies are often just as interesting, if not more so, because they reveal the culture of the times, putt ...more
Jane Routley
Nov 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, historical
What a fascinating life Josephine lead. Unhappy wife, gay divorcee, revolutionary prisoner, Coquette, Napoleonic it girl, trendsetter. She lived in interesting times and witnessed great events. Yet she was in many ways quite an ordinary woman, very charming but no great intellect, preferring shopping and gossip to letter writing. This fascinating autobiography shines a light on the France of the period and brings to life the charm of the woman. Its shows just how vital Josephine was to Napoleon' ...more
Sherwood Smith
Things I loved: that Andrea Stuart concentrated on presenting Josephine the leader of fashion, without hagiography or excoriation. I loved that she gave the reader an excellent background of colonial life, and the explosion of change happening there. I loved the quotations from letters. I loved the descriptions of Paris.

Pretty much the only thing that set me aback was her perpetuating the myth about Talleyrand's deformed foot being caused by a fall--that myth has been disproved for years. Decade
I checked this out from my overdrive app because I did not know anything about Josephine and thought this would something interesting to read. I think I read the synopsis wrong because I thought she played a bigger role in Napoleans military strategies. She helped him out more back in France and that was kind of cool to read about. I enjoyed reading about her childhood. I also loved how I felt like I was in 1700s Paris. I feel like the author did a really good job. Some chapters would feel like ...more
Dec 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Andrea Stuart has crafted an amazing life of Josephine, and unlike other biographers, has kept her as an individual separate from Napoleon.

This biography digs deep into the life of Josephine, drawing on many sources: Josephine's own writings, those of her family and friends, as well as public records from the time. I was impressed by the effort Stuart took to place her life in context, particularly the background she provided for Josephine's early life in Martinique as part of a family of slave
Sep 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing

I enjoyed reading this one.

Did you know that Josephine was not even her real name?

Did you know one of her passions was flowers?
She managed to grow over 250 species of roses
And roses are what she is mainly known for now.

You will find out all that and more in this book.

I loved reading the love letters Napoleon wrote her.
I read a few out loud to myself even.

Though it seems she went through many hard times.
What I take away from this book is that she never gave up.

She went from being imprisoned durin
Michael Heath-Caldwell
Oct 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Andrea Stuart's book is about Rose La Pagerie who became the Empress Josephine of France, because Napoleon seemed to like to rename people. A very interesting book looking at life in the last years of the Ancien Regime, the arrival of the French Revolution and the unexpectedly horrific outcome of mob rule. Rose nearly lost her head and her first husband did. Then after Robespierre gets a bit of his own desserts served on him the Terror rapidly subsides and Rose continues on in Paris, courted by ...more
Mary Ann
Jul 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This was one of the most well-written and compelling biographies I've ever read. I'd read a number of bios of Napoleon but this was the first that really provided me with a sense of him as a private person. Rose Beauharnais, named Josephine, is extraordinary. Raised in Martinique, married to an aristocratic who was guillotined during the Terror, Josephine was an amazing survivor. Someone who made herself into one of the most beloved individuals of her time--an extraordinary wife, mother and empr ...more
Sep 26, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I knew almost nothing about Josephine Bonaparte until I read this book. It was interesting, but I came away feeling like I didn't know the "real" Josephine (whose real name was Rose, Napoleon gave her the name Josephine). As an adult she created a persona that wasn't real. She kept it up until the end of her life. It was how she survived and it became part of who she was. I really didn't like the way the book portrayed her, so I didn't enjoy the book as much as I might have if I had had a better ...more
Jan 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Very well written and a lot more enjoyable to read as far as biographies go. It gave more of a broad view of not just her family but the events occurring around her and brought up a lot of facts I learned from Grade 12 World History. It doesn't paint her as a saint or a sinner but simply a human being and you truly sympathize with what she had to go through and knowing what's going to happen next (not my first book read on her). If there's one book you have to read on Josephine I'd recommend thi ...more
Apr 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-on-royalty
I absolutely loved reading this. Not only did I learn many new facts about Josephine, but Stuart also manages to incorporate the unfolding histories of the French military, sciences, literature, arts, fashion and economy.

This is a fabulous writer who is able to make the era and the people come alive and seem fresh with just enough detail to keep the reader enthralled, but not too much to make the work sound overly academic or detached in tone.
Feb 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
In The Rose of Martinique, Andrea Stuart succeeds so well at creating a vivid portrait of Josephine that I was shocked to discover that I’m not particularly interested by the woman herself, which is certainly no slam on Stuart’s considerable skills. She creates an equally vivid social history of a very interesting time in French history to place Josephine in her social context. I enjoyed it for the social history; if you like Josephine, you’ll enjoy it more.
Cristina Contilli
Una biografia che racconta la vita di Josephine dall'infanzia all'incoronazione ad imperatrice dei francesi nel 1804. L'autore non fa sconti a Josephine, descrivendola come una donna affascinante e spregiudicata, ma mostrando anche le difficoltà che ha dovuto affrontare e che hanno formato il suo carattere: dal matrimonio a 15 anni fino all'incarcerazione durante il periodo del terrore.
Kathryn Harper
A very enjoyable read. Not only is the content of Rose/Josephine's life incredibly interesting, the manner in which Stuart write about it is so captivating. Her vocabulary is impressive and highly descriptive. The only issue I had was Stuart's comma usage, and the fact that some of the paragraphs felt awkward--like they were forced in--but otherwise, a great book.
Christine Ward
Nov 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Simply put, one of the best biographies I've ever read. Compelling, engaging, and meticulously researched, this book about one of the world's most fascinating women reads like fast-paced historical fiction. I am saddened to finish it, but it was wonderful while it lasted - and I look forward to re-reading it.
Ann Thomas
The reason I gave this a low score is not the quality of the writing, which was excellent. The problem was the level of detail. I just found it too much to plough through. The information was great, with very evocative descriptions, but there is just too much of it for me. I gave up halfway through, but don't let that put you off.
Jul 26, 2010 rated it liked it
A very interesting true story of a young immigrant girl with natural warmth and grace who navigates the social circles of Paris pre- and post- French Revolution, marries a socially awkward yet ambitious young general (Napoleon), then rises to become Empress of France. The historical facts and perspectives very interesting, but the book was poorly written for a story with this much potential.
Dec 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I can't imagine reading this and not falling absolutely in love with Josephine. This is one of the best biographies I've read, and it's because her life story has it all- romance, adventure, tragedy, etc. It reads as well as fiction. I'd definitely recommend it if you're interested in French history or Napoleon Bonaparte since she was a major influence on both.
Feb 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Very readable biography of Rose aka Josephine, with enough history woven in to make it comprehensible. But I began to worry about the lack of critique of Rose/Josephine - I'm not sure I buy into this view that she was so perfect at Napoleon's consort. However, I enjoyed the book and it's inspired me to visit Malmaison.
Oct 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Really interesting biography. I especially loved the in-depth look at Paris before, during and after the Revolution. A picture is painted of the times much more vividly than any history textbook. The author gives marvellous descriptions about the politics, culture, decadence, fashions, and ways of life, even describing the stench of the streets in full sensory detail. Transporting!
Mar 20, 2009 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed the information. I read the book during a "french revolution" phase of my reading that included The Scarlet Pimpernell, a fictious series about Josephine and Le Miserables. This particular biography though was not terribly engaging in writing style, although it was better than a few translations of french biographies I looked at.
David Alexander
Jul 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Loved the story, loved the book. My only criticism is that I found the part about how she managed to escape execution during the reign of terror pretty hard to believe. There had to be more to the story.
Jul 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved this! Brings the Empress back to life as a very warm, genuine woman, rather than the faded caricature most of us know - if we know of her at all. Just enough of the political and military milieu to make sense.
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Andrea Stuart was born in Barbados in 1962. She spent many of her early years in Jamaica,where her father, Kenneth, was Dean of the medical school at the University College of the West Indies - the first university in the Caribbean.

In 1976, when she was a teenager, she moved with her family to England. She studied English at the University of East Anglia and French at the Sorbonne. Her book The Ro
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