Author: Carolly Erickson
Published: St. Martin's Press, 1999
Where I Got It: Online
Why I Read It: It was on sale for only $1
I've always been wary of books that include 'The Secret Life' or 'The Secret Diary,' or really any 'Secret' at all in the title. When it comes to historical figures, the 'Secret' usually means a lot of historical discrepancies or guessing on the author's part. Now I didn't know a lot about Josephine Bonaparte, so I wasn't sure if this was the case or not with Carolly Erickson.
Anyways, as you might have guessed, this book is about Rose Tascher, later known as Josephine Bonaparte, throughout the course of almost her entire life. Before Napoleon comes into her life, she lived on a plantation in Martinique, was married off to a minor nobility in France and later found herself on the wrong side of the French Revolution. She, unlike her husband, narrowly escaped the guillotine and to support herself, 'entertains' the French military through the means of a sugar daddy. Through this profession, she meets Napoleon Bonaparte and marries him. She endures his hateful family and enemies, and Napoleon's temper, to live her fabulous lifestyle. They have an extremely bipolar relationship and eventually divorce. We then follow her the rest of her life through lovers, assassination attempts and then her sudden death.
The author kind of glosses over the point that Josephine was a bit of a slut. She loses her virginity to a random ruffian on the beach (they never actually spoke), and was basically a call-girl in her later years. Though all of her sexual encounters are handled very tastefully, it has the tendency to read as a bad romance novel in parts. Because of all of the fluffed up bits, I will say that I'm interested in reading an actually biography on Josephine.
Carolly Erickson has never particularly amazed me with her writing, but I keep coming back to her because of the subjects she choses to write about. I've read two other books by her about Katherine Parr and Marie Antoinette (titled The Secret Diary of Marie Antoinette...grr) and am looking forward to one coming out this month about Elizabeth I and Lettice Knollys.
Part of the reason I was inspired to read this book is because my mom was in Corsica yesterday, Napoleon's birthplace. She was able to tour his home, Casa Buonaparte, and I am extremely jealous.
Overall, 3 stars. Oddly written books are justified in my opinion if they are written about an interesting person, as was this one.