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Josephine: A Life of the Empress

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  538 Ratings  ·  66 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)
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Naomi
Oct 13, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Tittirossa
Una vita incredibile, quella di Giuseppina Beauharnais in Bonaparte.
E' riuscita a stare a galla sia nel marasma delirante post-rivoluzione, sia pre-post durante Napoleone! Lo stress l'ha uccisa ma almeno per un po' se l'è goduta la vita.
Una biografia non del tutto acritica (certe scelte narrative implicano un giudizio non proprio favorevole a Giuseppina), ma interessante.
Linda
Mar 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fic
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
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
Kate Lawrence
Dec 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
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
Apr 08, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
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
Steena
May 06, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nadine
Sep 16, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french-history
I think the author assumes too much. Her historical research here is questionable, but the book was readable nonetheless.
Rob Markley
Interesting but not particularly engaging insight into Josephine. She does not come out of this with much credit despite this being a sympathetic biography
Lorie
Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this bio on Josephine. Still thinking about her remarkable life..
Haley Mancini
Okay. This book is interesting, especially when discussing the early part of Josephine's life until Napoleon, but once it endeavors into her relationship with Napoleon, it goes off the rails a bit, IMO, in that it tries overly hard to negate their love story.

I'd question my own beliefs on this because I'm sure I can fall victim to romantic stories, but besides the well-documented primary and secondary sources describing their continual, albeit rocky, infatuation with each other until Josephine's
...more
TheSlothPrincess
Feb 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent biography. About as far as you can get from a dry, dusty textbook, Erickson’s book is full of vivid description and interesting detail.

Before reading this, my only other knowledge of Josephine came from reading a historical novel by the same author. I very much enjoyed it, and although it gave me a basic idea of her life, I wanted to know more of her true story.

Josephine (or Rose, as she was previously known), lived a turbulent life, surviving deadly storms, prison during
...more
Byron
Jun 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Simon
Mar 13, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Lora
Aug 05, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
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
Donna
Jun 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Frank
Jun 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mazohyst
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Giornata_di_sole
Jul 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Victoria
Mar 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Flor Blum
Jun 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The beginning was a little slow and a bit confusing. I kept trying to figure out when Josephine was going to pop up when I realized that she had a different name. I knew that Josephine wasn't her real name yet didn't figure that out quickly. I was discouraged by the portrayal of the relationship between her and Napoleon. They are viewed to have loved each other despite all the cheating. I definitely learned a great deal about Josephine and how she survived the French Revolution. Overall, it was ...more
Sarah
Jun 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Until reading this book, I knew next to nothing about Josephine Bonaparte. This book was very readable, and didn't feel like a thorough biography at all. It's written in such a way that really made me connect with Josephine and all the emotional struggles she went through in her life. I liked this book a lot, and highly recommend it if you are interested in learning about the people behind the big names of history. p.s. Napoleon was a complete d**k.
Clarissa
Apr 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Easy read about the life of Napoleon's "Josephine". I had only a brief understanding of the romantic version of her story. This book filled in the background and life events to make the Empress more then a character. So many editing issues though! My copy had misused there- they're- their type mistakes. And the author would benefit from the use of a thesaurus to relieve the over-use of some words.
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.
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.
Katie
Sep 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Selected because Davina Porter performed the audiobook. She was absolutely fabulous!

Josephine aka Rose was an extraordinary woman; the personification of French charm and allure. Napoleon ruined her health, her peace and smashed her identity. She persevered. I think her story is a cautionary tale; be careful what you wish for, it might happen and make you miserable. And don't marry an egomaniac.
Nancy
Jan 30, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jillian
Jan 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  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.
Beth
Sep 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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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...
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