Desiree

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Désirée: The Bestselling Story of Napoleon's First Love

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More About This Book

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688014483
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/28/1953

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 29 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 29 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    a sweeping historical novel

    Désirée is an epic and sweeping historical novel written as the diary format of Bernardine Eugénie Désirée Clary, Napoleon's first fiancée. It covers the period from 1794 to 1829 when Napoleon is a young dirt-poor soldier who meets Désirée, the 14 year-old daughter of a silk merchant, to his rise and fall as the Emperor of France and her coronation as the Queen of Sweden and Norway.

    This book fascinated me. Initially it was slow and sometimes the political and military details were extensive, but overall I loved the story. Halfway through the book, the political intrigue grew and I looked forward to picking up where I left off reading, as the events became more suspenseful, especially during the Hundred Days. Because it is written in the first person, I quickly was attracted to Désirée's voice, her innocence and her eventual transformation. She was sensible, with a head on her shoulders, a quick wit and a sense of humour. I was swept away into her world as I read her intimate thoughts, her desires, her insecurities, her intelligence even as a young girl and on into womanhood.

    There are many characters in this novel, many of them based on historical figures. We get an insider's view of the Bonaparte family, since Désirée became Napoleon's sister-in-law when her older sister, Julie, married Napoleon's brother, Joseph. Initially, Désirée is devastated when Napoleon marries Josephine, but later she becomes friends with her. The book depicts Napoleon as ambitious and self-centered, fighting for the freedom of the French people more for glory and fame than true love of the cause. From beginning to end, it is clear that Désirée loves her country and the Declaration of the Rights of Man, which her father taught her to understand and respect. This theme runs throughout the book and influences Désirée's decisions and actions.

    The novel covers a lot of history, but the account in never dry. Actually, history is brought alive through the eyes of a woman caught in the middle of it. Sometimes, though, I found there lacked emotion in the accounts, such as when she is reunited with her son and later, her husband. The period of the French Revolution was a time of much political unrest, and I really liked reading the perspective of Désirée, who married Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte. He later was adopted by the childless Swedish King Karl XIII and became King of Sweden and Norway and subsequently transferred his family to Sweden.

    This is where I had a hard time with Desirée's decision to leave Sweden, her husband and young child shortly after she arrives because she felt she was not wanted by the Swedish aristocracy and people. She went back to Paris where she unselfishly helps her family, particularly Julie, who was weak and whiny. Although she and Jean-Baptiste love each other, they accepted this long-distance separation, and remained married and loyal to one another.

    This book sparked my interest so much that I did extra research on the Internet, and I now want to see the 1954 movie Désirée starring Marlon Brandon and Jean Simmons. If you are a historical fan, this book will not disappoint. Selinko's writing is captivating. You will be drawn to Désirée, a commoner who was a part of the life of Napoleon, helped establish the Bernadotte dynasty in Sweden and ruled as Queen without forgetting her humble beginnings.

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2003

    Fasinating and true

    This book is the basically factual story of a merchant's daughter who, after being scorned by Napoleon in favor of Josephine, goes on to marry one of Napoleon's generals, Bernadotte, who actually becomes the King of Sweden. My great-grandmother told me this story years before I read the book.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2002

    Desiree is a Dramatic, Historical Fiction Book about a Young Girl who Falls in Love With Napoleon

    Desiree is an interesting book. It is written in the style of a journal from Desiree's point of view. Her journal describes her life from her teenage years to her old age. She takes you on a ride through her engagement to Napoleon Bonaparte, her attempted suicide because of the broken engagement, and her hasty marriage to another young general. Desiree exploits the gossip and politics of the age of Napoleon. I loved the historical insight and added fiction. Although it is long you will quickly be drawn in and won't come out until you read the last page.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2013

    Never a flaw in their service!

    My latest purchase is great! I have always loved the movie "Desiree",
    however hadn't read the book. As always, the book contains much more
    material and deviates somewhat from the movie, I love getting the whole
    story. Fascinating!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 24, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Napoleon, Josephine, Desiree and the making of history

    I expected Desiree to be another wonderful escape into historical fiction with a complicated plot, historical characters, much romance and drama and found it to be even better than I'd expected. Selinko does introduce Desiree to Bethoven, the leaders of the French Revolution, the Jacobines, Robispeare, Talleyrand. Desiree approaches them as ordinary people, regular citizens, albeit more powerful than most. Reading Desiree's impressions of them, we see these characters from the point of view of an ordinary woman, one who isn't interested in power but is painfully aware of what effects that powerful people have on the lives of everyone around them.

    The relationship between Desiree and Napoleon is based on far more than their early romance. Through Napoleon's special relationship with Desiree, we imagine how he might have been with a loyal friend that knew him when he had no money, few contacts, but great confidence and ambition. In the early years, Desiree and her prosperous middleclass family helped the Bonapartes. When Desiree's sister Julie married Napoleon's brother, her dowry and their business provided the Bonapartes with resources that helped Bonaparte rise in politics and the army. I particularly enjoyed the way that Selinko captured the unique and powerful link that we share with old friends and the way that she showed this in the relationship between Desiree and Napoleon.

    Though Napoleon and Desiree were secretly engaged, this was an early love. Napoleon was subsequent married to Josephine and Desiree married Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, another general in the French army. Bernadotte was loyal to the Republic and faced considerable trials because of his refusal to bow to Napoleon's wishes. His independence, integrity and superb tactical skills result in unexpected recognition and responsibility for Bernadotte. But his professional successes take a toll Desiree. Desiree, Jean Baptiste and their son make sacrifices for the countries that they love and their very humanity makes this story even more remarkable and moving.

    I thoroughly enjoyed Désirée: The Bestselling Story of Napoleon's First Love and would recommend it to anyone fond of historical fiction or the Napoleonic period or looking for an engaging and moving read.

    ISBN-10: 1402244029 - Paperback
    Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark; Reprint edition (October 1, 2010), 608 pages.
    Review copy provided by the publisher.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Bridget's Review

    I'm a sucker for a good love story but I also like for there to be some substance when it comes to the plot. Desiree is pure perfection! The writing is amazing and the characters will tug at your heart. It's a really great story!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2008

    An amazing story!

    This book is amazing. A friend's mother found it and gave it to me because my name is Desiree. I'm sorry to say that it took me 2 years to start reading it, but am trying to figure out why. I have now read this book twice and plan on reading it again.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2005

    I was named after this book

    This book is one of my all time favorites and it's not just because it is exciting, adventurous and has a true heroin that we would all love to be like. It is because I was named after this book and I am lucky enough to have a copy of the first publication.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2003

    Greatest Book I've Read

    I love this book! I'm not quite finished with it, but I don't want it to end! The writing is done so wonderfully, the reader never wants to put it down. I love that it's based on historical facts.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 19, 2014

    A Historical Fiction Classic. The author expertly integrates hi

    A Historical Fiction Classic. The author expertly integrates historical fact with fiction and romance. I read this book many years ago. I found it just as wonderful the second time around. A great story about first love, coming of age and how life experiences help weave the tapestry of life. Anyone interested in French history, Napoleon or romance will enjoy this book. Highly Recommend. Originally published in 1953.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 3, 2012

    Wonderful

    I read this book as a teenager and enjoyed it, but now that I know a lot more about the world, and politics, I found it to be truly outstanding. It was one of the most engaging books I have read recently. I would like to know even more about the history of many of the characters.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2012

    Chase

    * shoves to fingers into ur pu.zzy*

    0 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2012

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2012

    Still love this story

    I have read it many times since it was published. And still enjoy reading it, a definate favorite!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2011

    An Old Favorite

    I read this book for the first time when I was sixteen and loved it. I am so happy to have found this for my "Nook".

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    Posted December 27, 2013

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    Posted December 7, 2013

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    Posted September 7, 2010

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    Posted August 23, 2009

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 29 Customer Reviews

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