Rose of Martinique: A Life of Napoleon's Josephine

( 4 )

Overview

One of the most remarkable women of the modern era, Josephine Bonaparte was born Rose de Tasher on her family's sugar plantation in Martinique. She embodied all the characteristics of a true Creole-sensuality, vivacity, and willfulness. Using diaries and letters, Andrea Stuart expertly re-creates Josephine's whirlwind of a life, which began with an isolated Caribbean childhood and led to a marriage that would usher her onto the world stage and crown her empress of France.
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The Rose of Martinique: A Life of Napoleon's Josephine

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Overview

One of the most remarkable women of the modern era, Josephine Bonaparte was born Rose de Tasher on her family's sugar plantation in Martinique. She embodied all the characteristics of a true Creole-sensuality, vivacity, and willfulness. Using diaries and letters, Andrea Stuart expertly re-creates Josephine's whirlwind of a life, which began with an isolated Caribbean childhood and led to a marriage that would usher her onto the world stage and crown her empress of France.
Josephine managed to be in the forefront of every important episode of her era's turbulent history: from the rise of the West Indian slave plantations that bankrolled Europe's rapid economic development, to the decaying of the ancien régime, to the French Revolution itself, from which she barely escaped the guillotine.
Rescued from near starvation, she grew to epitomize the wild decadence of post-revolutionary Paris. It was there that Josephine first caught the eye of Napoleon Bonaparte. A true partner to Napoleon, she was equal parts political adviser, hostess par excellence, confidante, and passionate lover. In this captivating biography, Stuart brings her so utterly to life that we finally understand why Napoleon's last word before dying was the name he had given her: Josephine.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Born in Martinique, her name was Rose when she arrived in France at age 15 to marry her first husband, a handsome man-about-court who quickly neglected his disappointingly provincial wife. Rose matured and built alliances in unlikely places, including the convent where her husband forced her to retire and the prison where she spent the last months of the French Revolution. It was after this period and her husband's execution that she became one of Paris's great hostesses and attracted the attention of an awkward but rising military hero named Napoleon Bonaparte. Stuart (Showgirls) captures the tentativeness of their first years of marriage, when letters of the often-absent, sexually inexperienced Napoleon raged with jealousy while Rose, whom he renamed Josephine, continued to have the affairs common in her social circle. Sources provide a challenge to the biographer, who must wade through material written much later when writers were fully aware of the importance of the actors and scenes they described. The twin dangers of contemporary romanticization and criticism haunt Stuart's text, yet the shifting sands of identity they create seem appropriate, for Rose and Napoleon were both remaking themselves. The almost pathological ways they complemented each other remain painfully clear as Stuart traces the denouements of their lives. It was hardly a happy marriage, and Stuart's argument that the emperor's harsh treatment of women in the Code Napol on reflected the dynamics and frustrations of his own marriage seems quite convincing in this context. 16 pages of color illus. not seen by PW. Agent, David Godwin. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Jamaican-born author Stuart (Showgirls) believes that her understanding of Caribbean heritage makes her especially well equipped to profile Napoleon's famous consort, who was born Rose de Tasher on a sugar plantation in the French colony of Martinique. The future Empress Josephine came to Paris as an unsophisticated 16-year-old intended in marriage to nobleman and legendary philanderer Alexandre de Beauharnais. Using diaries and letters, Stuart re-creates Josephine's story in painstaking detail. She sensitively explains how Josephine's seemingly glamorous life was really marked by a series of difficult adjustments: facing life as an immigrant outsider, emerging from a failed marriage, raising two children alone, and suffering the infidelities of two husbands. Stuart also describes Josephine's daily routine; seeks to uncover her political views, especially on race and slavery; and, most important, demonstrates how she adapted to the many challenges she faced. While removing herself from historiographical debates, Stuart does try to make sense of Josephine's reputation "for easy morals and gold digging," admitting that she was a passionate and sensual woman who used her charms to survive. Hence, she emerges as a startlingly modern woman. This engrossing, well-researched biography should interest general readers fascinated by the romance of the Napoleonic period.-Marie Marmo Mullaney, Caldwell Coll., NJ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A sometimes florid but engaging life of Napoleon's true love, a woman ill served by circumstances. Marie-Josephe-Rose-Claire des Vergers de Tascher de la Pagarie was born on a plantation in Martinique, "a complicated place during a tumultuous time," a voluptuous island that had just narrowly escaped becoming a British possession: "In a treaty concluded with Britain in 1763, when presented with the choice of holding on to Canada . . . or to the commercially and strategically important 'sugar islands' . . . the French chose the latter," writes Critical Quarterly fiction editor Stuart (Showgirls, not reviewed). The French decision was fateful, for it kept Martiniquaise society well within Paris's orbit; thus it was that young Rose came to France, "plump, provincial, and adolescent," intended for the nobleman Alexandre de Beauharnais, whom students of French literature remember as the model for Valmont in Laclos's Dangerous Liaisons. It wasn't a happy marriage, writes Stuart, but it brought Rose into the best circles of aristocratic Paris, a dangerous place to be in revolutionary times-"it is hard to imagine that she escaped the profound disturbances which beset her contemporaries, many of whom reported a litany of psychological and physical disorders including nightmares, sleeplessness, anxiety and depression," Stuart writes-but a good place to be noticed. Notice her Napoleon Bonaparte, himself an island-born outsider, did, and Stuart writes lucidly of their seemingly improbable romance, improbable, perhaps, because the young woman whom Napoleon would call Josephine had become a beauty, whereas Napoleon was a "small, sickly man" who was, a contemporary said, "given to inappropriate outburstsof laughter which did little to endear him to others." Romance became partnership, and Stuart credits Rose/Josephine for her enlightened influence over the dictator, who famously divorced her while in exile on Elba for her inability to produce an heir to the throne. Unfailingly interesting: a sturdy life of a woman often overlooked in the vast library of Napoleonic studies. Agent: David Godwin
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802142023
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/9/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 430,063
  • Product dimensions: 6.06 (w) x 9.04 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Read an Excerpt

The Rose of Martinique

A Life of Napoleon's Josephine
By Andrea Stuart

Grove Atlantic, Inc.

ISBN: 0-8021-1770-8


Chapter One

The ceremony took place at the once glamorous Hôtel de Mondragon. A room on the second floor had been allocated for civil marriages. There was still some evidence here of the hotel's former glory: a marble fireplace, large gilt mirrors and the delicate Louis XV paneling, but the room, like the rest of the building, was sorely neglected. As Josephine recalled years later, the dingy, crudely furnished room was lit by a single, half-hearted candle flickering in a tin sconce.

The bride, wearing a white muslin gown with a tricolor sash and an enameled medallion engraved with the words "To Destiny," given to her by Bonaparte, arrived to all this decaying splendor punctually at eight o'clock on the evening of 9 March 1796. Barras, one of Napoleon's witnesses, arrived shortly after. But there was no sign of the groom. The minutes turned into hours. There was nowhere comfortable to sit; and with increasing ill-temper the weary registrar finally went to bed, leaving the ceremony to one of his underlings who hobbled about gamely on his wooden leg. Finally, at almost ten o'clock, Napoleon bounded up the marble staircase accompanied by his aide. Carried away with his plans for Italy, he had lost track of the time. This would set the tone for their entire relationship. No matter how great Napoleon professed his love to be, it would always come second to his military ambition.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Rose of Martinique by Andrea Stuart Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix
Preface xi
1 Childhood 1
2 Arrival 33
3 Married Life 42
4 Alexandre in Martinique 64
5 The Convent 73
6 Fontainebleau 80
7 Return of the Native 89
8 Revolution 98
9 Imprisonment 130
10 Thermidor 142
11 Italy 181
12 Egypt 216
13 Brumaire 252
14 The Consulate 262
15 Coronation 314
16 Empire 326
17 Seclusion 371
Notes 411
Bibliography 431
Index 442
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2013

    I am a high school student and i had to read this book for my re

    I am a high school student and i had to read this book for my research project. The novel The Rose of Martinique is a book i would not
    normally find myself reading. I feel it was an interesting book, however, i did not like certain things. The beginning of the story dragged 
    on and it was very difficult to understand. I had to reread the first chapter a couple of times to finally understand what i was reading
     and what the author was trying to explain. The chapters after that were much easier to understand and to comprehend. Something
    else i did not like was how the author went into to many details in some parts and that is what made it a bit more confusing and it was
    hard for me  to keep up.What surprised me was that Josephine Bonaparte's life was much more interesting than i anticipated. Reading
     about her struggles and her  whole love  life with Napoleon  and their whole story was what kept me reading the book. I firmly believe
     this book gave a lot of background information on anything  that  had to do with Josephine. I learned about her family background
    such as what kind of a family she came from, all the fortune in her  and their importance. I would recommend this book to anyone
     looking to find Josephine's full life story. However i would not recommend it to anyone looking for an easy read. 
       

      

    12 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted April 12, 2013

    I am a high school student and i had to read this book for my re

    I am a high school student and i had to read this book for my research project. I normally don't like books that are lengthy and that have
    to do with historical events. However, i found myself not being able to put the book down when i started reading it. This book pulls you 
    in once you actually start to read it. However, there are some things that i didn't like about this book and made it harder to comprehend
    and read. The beginning of the story was confusing and dragged on. For example, The character Josephine is referred to as "Rose"
    until she marries Napoleon. I also had to reread some chapters because they seemed to drag on. However, as i read more and more 
    i read into the book, the story started to pull together and i found the beginning chapters very helpful and relevant to the book and its 
    outcome. On a good note, i really appreciated how the author provided in-depth information about what was not only going on in
    Josephine's life, but also what was going on in the country from all different aspects in that time period. I also love how the author took
    time and out of their way to put extensive details about everything. It was to a point where i could actually picture in my mind how 
    something was or how someone felt like, especially the main character, Josephine. What startled me however, was Josephine
     Bonaparte's life. I did not expect it to be interesting or to be able to actually want me to keep reading the book.  When I got to the later
    years of her life,especially when she met Napoleon, was when i got pulled into book. I found it amazing reading about her struggles and
    how she managed to overcome them and use the criticism she received to build herself up into a strong woman. The most interesting
    thing about the book though, was her love life. It was full of love and lust. The turbulent relationship between Josephine and  Napoleon's
    really amused me.Even though starting the book was a pain to read, it was a pleasure finishing it because it became easy and enjoyable
     to read. I believe that this book really gave me a good perspective about her life as well as accurate information about events in that time
    period which helped understand why she made some decisions. There is a lot of background in this book, not only about the main
    character herself, but also other characters. Overall, i really enjoyed reading this book and found it a little depressing when i finished. I
    would recommend this book to anyone who would like to know about Josephine and her life. I particularly would recommend this book to
    anyone who needs research because this book gives a lot of detail. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone who has little patience on trying
     to comprehend a book or who might skip over the first chapters because the whole book would be confusing.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted April 12, 2013

    I am a high school student and i had to read this book for my re

    I am a high school student and i had to read this book for my research project. I normally don't like books that are lengthy and that have
    to do with historical events. However, i found myself not being able to put the book down when i started reading it. This book pulls you 
    in once you actually start to read it. However, there are some things that i didn't like about this book and made it harder to comprehend
    and read. The beginning of the story was confusing and dragged on. For example, The character Josephine is referred to as "Rose"
    until she marries Napoleon. I also had to reread some chapters because they seemed to drag on. However, as i read more and more
    i read into the book, the story started to pull together and i found the beginning chapters very helpful and relevant to the book and its
    outcome. On a good note, i really appreciated how the author provided in-depth information about what was not only going on in
    Josephine's life, but also what was going on in the country from all different aspects in that time period. I also love how the author took
    time and out of their way to put extensive details about everything. It was to a point where i could actually picture in my mind how
    something was or how someone felt like, especially the main character, Josephine. What startled me however, was Josephine Bonaparte's
     life. I did not expect it to be interesting or to be able to actually want me to keep reading the book.  When I got to the later years of her life,
     especially when she met Napoleon, was when i got pulled into book. I found it amazing reading about her struggles and how she
    managed to overcome them and use the criticism she received to build herself up into a strong woman. The most interesting thing about
    the book though, was her love life. It was full of love and lust. The turbulent relationship between Josephine and  Napoleon's really amused
     me.Even though starting the book was a pain to read, it was a pleasure finishing it because it became easy and enjoyable to read. I
    believe that this book really gave me a good perspective about her life as well as accurate information about events in that time period
    which helped understand why she made some decisions. There is a lot of background in this book, not only about the main character
    herself, but also other characters. Overall, i really enjoyed reading this book and found it a little depressing when i finished. I would recommend
     this book to anyone who would like to know about Josephine and her life. I particularly would recommend this book to anyone who needs
     research because this book gives a lot of detail. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone who has little patience on trying to comprehend a
    book or who might skip over the first chapters because the whole book would be confusing.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted November 4, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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