The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Joséphine B. (The Joséphine B. Trilogy Book 1)

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If you're a sucker for historical fiction it is an absolute MUST read.

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Shelves: historical-fiction , novels , fiction , 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 to her marriage to Napoleon in That's its weakness and it's strength. The weakness, I think, being that diary format. I think what all of them have in common are very stron 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 to her marriage to Napoleon in I think what all of them have in common are very strong voices and the way the entries show a change in the character.

Without a strong personality, diary format can come across as sketchy, with a jerky, stop and go quality, and I'm afraid I found the voice created for Josephine very bland and the voice doesn't vary from inexperienced creole girl to a mature sophisticated woman deeply involved and influential in the the politics of Revolutionary France. I don't feel the story gained from being in diary form or even first person. The strength? That this is the story of Josephine Bonaparte, and if the story it tells comes anywhere near the historical truth, she's a far more interesting character than I could have guessed.

A generous, compassionate woman who took risks to save others against the backdrop of "the Reign of Terror" where she almost lost her own head to the guillotine. The content of her life and the history she lived kept me riveted, in spite of spare, restrained, dare I say dull, writing. The picture of Revolutionary France, that turned into a totalitarian state in the name of "liberty" was fascinating.

The Many Lives And Secret Sorrows Of Josephine B

However, I often found the footnotes in the book of real history more revealing, making Josephine sound more complex and interesting than the voice created for her telling her own story. As for Napoleon, he only enters the story in the last 50 pages or so, and comes across as a rather cold fish, while history and his surviving letters to her marks his love for Josephine as one of the great passionate affairs in history--not something that comes across in the book. I admit in the end I'm much more likely as the result of this novel to pick up a biography of her, than the next volume in the trilogy.

View all 4 comments. Sep 17, Natasa rated it it was amazing Shelves: marie-antoinette , french-history , favorites , josephine-bonaparte. Truly recommend it!!! Jul 11, Shane 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 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 charms and ascends the ranks of Parisian society during the period of unrest following the French Revolution. Her first marriage is one of convenience as Alexandre continues to pursue his career, take mistresses and sire illegitimate children, despite having a son and daughter by Rose.

The Reign of Terror descends and Alexandre is imprisoned and later guillotined for his failure to win a key battle. Rose follows him into prison but escapes on a reprieve when Robespierre himself the patriarch of the Terror is executed. A released Rose continues her survival and the protection of her fledgling family by artfully affiliating with the right power brokers of the shifting political hierarchy.

The novel is written as Rose's diary and hence certain events occur off-stage, and yet the on-stage happenings are vividly re-created with penetrating intimacy. Even Rose and Alexandre take different lovers while sharing the same prison and awaiting their impending execution. Peculiar customs of the time: footmen arranging women's hairdo's, young women being "bled" to give them a fair and pale complexion in public, rinsing with urine to numb a toothache, maids standing by with needles and thread for emergency garment repairs during the Queen's ball, "having flowers" aka having a menstrual period, drinking port and beer during a pregnancy - very interesting indeed!

View 2 comments. 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: what the book is about, glowing reviews from others But about the book itself? It has been published in 17 countries. Readers report the book being loved by many generations in one family.

See what you think? Try it! I'm offering it free to Kobo and iBook readers. I'm sorry, but this edition is only available outside Canada and the US, where my publishers do a very good job of selling all my books in all formats, both e-book and print. Let's see if I can manage a link or two: The book's page on my website.

View all 3 comments. Aug 24, Chrissie rated it it was amazing Shelves: series , hf , france , caribbean , bio , favorites. 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. Well because youu got under the skin of Josephine, who in fact was called Rose until Napolean decided to change her name! Well, Napolean decided to change his own name too. You truly understood what she went through - her youth in Martinique, her life with her first husband, her relationships with her two children by this first husband, her experiences of the French Revolution and of course Napolean.

Somehow this author makes these people and their lives and the times they lived through REAL! The style of writing is not extraordinary, but what the author achieves is extraordinary.

The Many Lives And Secret Sorrows Of Josephine B (The Josephine B. Trilogy)

Don't be put off that the book is written as diary entries. It doesn't read like that. The dates are simply helpful so you know exactly when the historical events are occurring. The footnotes are interesting and informative. Mantel has risen to such popularity for her book Wolf Hall. In Gulland's trilogy you become more involved. You understand how it might feel to fight for fraternity, liberty and equality and then see it being torn away again by the Royalists. Over and over again!


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The French Revolution was really a civil war with friends becoming foes and everyone changing sides all the time. What the Terror meant to the people living through it is heart wrenching. You come to understand how after all these troubles, Napolean and his Empire came into being. How can the French people seek freedom and then back the formation of an empire, and emperor with hereditary succession. All this becomes very, very clear and you think the same yourself. I haven't said a word about Josephine's relationship with Napolean. THIS is the most moving part of the book.

This is a true love story. She knew her husband. He loved her AND she loved him! DON'T on the other hand think that Josephine is a weak, head-over-heels in love woman. She has an excellent brain and she uses it. She is a business woman. She loves winning a game, a gamble. She is marvelous. There have always been strong women. Everyone says women have no rights and they are constantly pushed down, but some women defied all the cutoms of their times. And they get away with it marvelously! I highly recommend this trilogy. History that goes down like a spoonful of Tom and Jerry ice cream.

Don't forget the epilogue and the postscript. Furthermore, the comments below also discuss why I loved this trilogy. Through page Althought this reads like engaging fiction, the known facts of Josephine Bonaparte's life are accurately documented. Personally I find her sojourns at Martinique very much as engaging as her time spent in Paris. It is very interesting to read of diverse issues occurring at the time of the French Revolution and not JUST the polical trends. You get a more complete view of the times. You experience storms at sea and on the island. These storms actually occurred.

Grain was destroyed and made the people in Paris hungry and is an important cause for the social and political unrest. You learn of how the peopled suffered from illnesses and old age. Josephine's love for her children feels true. Napolean still hasn't entered the scence. Through page Life seems so terribly dangerous. It is now The conditions described concern a family that is privileged! The conditions for the poor are horrendous. The events and the conditions feel very, very real.

Through page How the aristocrats lived in the late s before the French Revolution in Paris is well described. Childbirth, sexual relationships, dress, food, theater, literature, the salons, Rousseau's political beliefs, the Royalty's behavior and more are all viewed through the eyes of Josephine and her new acquaintances in Paris. Did you know that Voltaire's writings are full of spelling errors.?! I like knowing that. I feel a bit better!

So the story is interesting. The language is fine, but nothing exceptional. There is no reason to quote anything. The characters are interesting, but I wouldn't say I am emotionally drawn to anyone. So far it is a light, intersting read. Oh, and Josephine has still not met Napolean. Through page The book reads like a novel.

It consists of short paragraph entries in Josephine's diary which she received on her 14th birthday. I am thoroughly enjoying this, which actually surprises me for two reasons. First of all you do not doubt that it is a novel. Secondly, I usually hate epistolary writing. Here again, all rules can be broken. Josephine's voice rings true for a young girl in the late s. It is however not written in a stilted voice. The diary entries are very short, so they are in no way clumsy. It is just like reading intereting paragraphs with an added date. Historical notes are added at the bottom of the page to give indepth information.

I like reading them. The reader may do as they choose. Did you know that the "green flash", the line of green that can appear in the sky at sunrise or sunset, was thought to bring you good luck? I am also curious about the belief in voodoo mystic on the island at this time. I have always been taught to call the island Martinique, but the back cover uses the name Martinico - why?! And let me add that much has already happened in only 43 pages. What a relief after Pnin!

Good descriptive writing, but so terribly mean spirited. View all 12 comments. Jan 18, Kerri 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 I had a lot of issues with this story. Since the author chose to use a diary format, she needs to be true to the character's own personal growth.

I also found all of the names of the various characters a bit confusing and I couldn't really believe Rose would befriend some of the politicians she meets after her marriage. Another flaw with the story was her relationship with her husband. He was not a nice guy, he never was. Yet, she felt such an obligation toward him which just didn't resonate with me.

While the novel may be based in fact, I felt like the author just didn't provide enough depth and complexity within Rose's character. Rose is a strong woman, so at times, her choices just didn't make sense. This book is one of three, but I highly doubt I will be reading the next two.

The story just lost my interest towards the end. Jun 15, Gary 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 I found this a very exciting smooth read and after every session looked forward to coming back for more. Follows on with sharp insight into post Terror France and the time of the directory, with intimate portrayals of French politcians of the time such as Barras, Tallien and Fouche It is towards the end of the novel where we get to explore the courtship of Rose by the brash young general Napoleon Buonoparte, the protege of the leading figure of the Directory, Deputy Barras.

The book makes one feel excited to see into the private life and thoughts of Josephine, but he way the politics and society of the France of the time as well as the focus on the slave rebellion on Martinique inspired by the revolution is analysed and presented in a worm's eye view. What we see in the heroin She is named Rose for most of the novel but as we know her by Josephime B that is her name in the title because not many of us know her as Rose Tascher is complex woman, a proud libertine but with a thread of strong compassion for the impoverished masses and horror at the depredations of the terror.

Sep 03, Jess The Bookworm 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 This novel takes a look at the life of Josephine Bonaparte, before she was Josephine Bonaparte. The book is written by way of diary entries and letters, which was surprisingly effective and kept the story moving along at a fast pace. I though that the use of footnotes was a bit strange and unnecessary, but it was fine.

I really enjoyed this book and it was a great introduction to an historical figure that I didn't know much about, and would love to read more of. This book covers more of her early life and first marriage, and ends pretty soon after she meets Napoleon, so I would love to get hold of the next books detailing more of her life with Napoleon. Jun 08, Carole P.


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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 I fell in love when I read this book. A wonderful read, I zoomed through all three books.

After finishing them, I was left with an finely drawn picture of an fascinating person who shaped the world. Sometimes it's not just about the guys!! Sep 11, Phyllis rated it really liked it. Ah finally. A book that I could just sink my teeth into and enjoy wholeheartedly!


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This is the first book of a trilogy about Josephine B. 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 Ah finally. Josephine, whose original name of Rose was changed by Napoleon, was born on the French island of Martinique, to cane grower parents.

A local fortune teller predicted some very important events in Rose's life I won't be a spoiler and tell you In this first book of the trilogy Napoleon plays a very small role but the bloody background and Roses's own experiences are succificient to keep the reader engrossed and fascinated. By the time Rose meets Napoleon, she is no virginal innocent by any means, and he is still pretty rough along the edges. I immediately proceeded to the second volume!! Jul 23, Myriam rated it really liked it Shelves: historical-fiction.

An interesting, fun and fast read. Jun 29, Theresa rated it really liked it Shelves: historical-fiction. This historical fiction novel about Josephine Bonaparte throughout the story known as 'Rose' 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. There was much rejoicing.

I felt the festivities as if they were for me, for I know what she feels, I know her joy. Eventually both she and her husband are imprisoned. Rose's imprisonment lasts several months. I went to the window, pulled back the drapes. A group of men, ruffians, were in the street, two carrying pikes. One was wearing the blue tunic of a dockman of Marseille.

He saw me at the window and screamed, "Death to the aristocrats! Rose has many friends and learns to become adept at both domestic and political affairs, often writing letters of support or attempting to help free those who remain imprisoned. It is a very difficult time with personal danger being careful not to address each other as "Madame" or "Monsieur", but instead, "Citizen" , food shortages, and financial woes in addition to concerns for her son who is serving in the military.

We whisper - not of gossip, but of grain: where it might be found. Those who know stay silent. Every day there are riots for food. I really enjoyed the diary format of the novel although fictional , and the skill the author had in bringing a young girl's hopes and fears to life. The upheaval of the French Revolution is realistically portrayed as are the loose morals of some of the characters. Life in Paris both pre- and post-Revolution is sharply contrasted and Rose finds many opportunities to assist those in need.

I found it so interesting, I could not put it down and am ready to continue her story with the next book in the series. 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 2.

As for this installment of the series, it focused primarily on her childhood and first husband who was a worthless dolt. Much of the book drug by and felt like a bit of a chore to continue at times. While it worked for many other readers, I also did not prefer the journal format that the author uses to tell the story. First Sentence: I am fourteen today and unmarried still. Jan 08, Kate Forsyth rated it really liked it Shelves: historical. You will be Queen. The style of the book is most unusual — it actually really feels like a personal diary, unlike most novels written in this form.

Although I have read biographies of Napoleon and Jospehine before, this novel feels incredibly real and immediate.

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Jan 23, Amy 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 a. 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 I would have never chosen this book on my own. It makes me want to go back to France to visit these places with a better, more educated perspective than I had on my visit at 15 years old.

I cared more about cute boys or my hair back then I'm sure! Oct 30, Allie rated it it was amazing Shelves: historical-fiction , france , reads. 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! 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.

The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B

Anyway, I loved it the more I think about it. Apr 30, Heidi 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. I recommend! Captivating, wonderful. He had started the day with rum and absinthe and followed it with ti-punches all through the afternoon.

Father looked away. His skin was yellow; it is the malaria again, surely. So then I felt bad, for is it Father's fault he'd inherited only debts? Is it his fault he has been cursed with three daughters and no son, that Mother's dowry turned to dust in his hands, that his dream of sending me to France had never materialized for want of the price of passage?

The fat boy we all call Algie. He told me at length and in great detail how large a girl's dowry would have to be, how noble her bloodline, how abundant her bosom and intact her maidenhood even to dream of marrying his pimple-faced boy -- " Manette had her napkin stuffed in her mouth to keep from laughing. The convent. Always the convent. Is this to be my future?

I yearn for so much more! June This morning I gave my ten livres to the slave-master to divide among the field-hands. I am grown now and more aware of the sufferings of the world. But Mother found out and got cross, accusing me of being like Father. Sunday, June Dear Diary, I have been giving thought to my sins, making repentance.

I am guilty of wishful thinking, of extravagant imaginings. I am guilty of gazing at myself in the pond. I am guilty of sleeping with my hands under my bedsheets. There, it is written. The ink is drying as I write. I must close this book now -- I cannot bear to look at these words. Outside I heard a horse whinny and a man shouting. His big nose twitched. He paused. Father Dropper handed me a handkerchief. He bent toward me. I could smell rum on his breath. I backed away. At the door I turned and ran.

July This afternoon Mimi and I were playing in the ruins when Mimi saw a spot on my chemise. I twisted and pulled my skirt around. I didn't know what to do. So Mimi got me a rag which she instructed me on how to use.

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She told me she washes hers out in the creek, early, when no one is around to see. This is supposed to be the big change in me, but all I feel is ill. Mimi is teaching me how to tell the future from cards, how to lay them out, how to know the meaning. Today we practised on my sister Catherine. The card in the ninth place was Death. Catherine protested. She sniffed the air. Later, I questioned her.

Never believe him. Dear Diary, something terrible has happened; it hangs over my heart like a curse. It began with a lie. I told my little sister Manette that Mimi and I were going to the upper field to see if Father's ship was in the harbour yet. Mimi and I headed up the trace behind the manioc hut, but at the top of the hill we took the path that led back down to the river, toward Morrie Croc-Souris.

We hadn't gone far when Manette caught up with us. You said you were going up the hill. We heard a chicken squawking before we came upon the fortuneteller's shack. I looked at Mimi. The air was thick with the smell of roasted goat. In the shadows of a verandah roofed over with banana tree leaves, I saw an old Negro woman sitting cross-legged. As we approached she stood up. She was wearing a red satin ball gown fringed with gold, much tattered and stained and too big for her. Her hair was white and woolly, standing out around her head like a halo. A rusty machete was propped up against the wall behind her.

Mimi called out something I couldn't understand. The old woman said something in the African tongue. A puppy came out of the shack and growled at us. Mimi pushed me forward. The two of us approached. What was there to be afraid of? Entering the shade of the verandah, I was surprised how small the old woman was, not much bigger than Manette. Her loose black skin hung from her neck. She held a shell bowl in one hand -- pigs' knuckles and coconut, it looked like -- and was eating it with her fingers.

She threw a bone to the puppy to finish. The old woman and Mimi began talking in the African tongue. I looked back over my shoulder. Manette was standing by a calabash tree, watching. A crow called out warning sounds. Mimi touched my arm. She returned with a basket which she pushed into my hands.

In the basket were a gourd rattle, a wooden doll, a stick, two candles, a bone, bits of frayed ribbon and a crucifix.