Release Date: 05/06/14
Publisher: Arrow Books
This is the incredible rise and unbelievable fall of a woman whose energy and ambition is often overshadowed by Napoleon's military might. In this triumphant biography, Kate Williams tells Josephine's searing story, of sexual obsession, politics and surviving as a woman in a man's world. Abandoned in Paris by her aristocratic husband, Josephine's future did not look promising. But while her friends and contemporaries were sent to the guillotine during the Terror that followed the Revolution, she survived prison and emerged as the doyenne of a wildly debauched party scene, surprising everybody when she encouraged the advances of a short, marginalised Corsican soldier, six years her junior. Josephine, the fabulous hostess and skilled diplomat, was the perfect consort to the ambitious but obnoxious Napoleon. With her by his side, he became the greatest man in Europe, the Supreme Emperor; and she amassed a jewellery box with more diamonds than Marie Antoinette's. But as his fame grew, Napoleon became increasingly obsessed with his need for an heir and irritated with Josephine's extravagant spending. The woman who had enchanted France became desperate and jealous. Until, a divorcee aged forty-seven, she was forced to watch from the sidelines as Napoleon and his young bride produced a child.
To be honest this was a book that I became interested in purely for the fact that I wanted to read up a little bit more from the female point of view in the French Revolution and whilst I was fully aware of Napoleon during this time, I really didn’t know anything about his first wife Josephine (or rather Marie Josèphe Rose (her birth name.)
So whilst I had originally picked this up on a whim to learn more, what I managed to obtain from this book was a figure of strong womanhood, who not only managed to change herself like a chameleon to suit her social status’ but also managed to escape the guillotine a fete in itself. She was charismatic, she was a fascinating character and whilst many tend to think that Napoleon was the power in the relationship, in reality it was more an equal footing for both.
All round this book not only kept me glued but when backed up with solid research which is presented in an easy to follow manner, all round I was hooked from the first chapter onwards. Great stuff.