Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Last Great Dance on Earth




The Last Great Dance on Earth, by Sandra Gulland (Third book of the Jospehine B. Trilogy)

...Josephine and Bonaparte have just gotten married...


I'm often asked if it’s possible to read this book without having read the previous two. First of all, the three volumes in the trilogy are a continuation of eachother. So, in order to appreciate the story in full, you need to read all three. Josephine's life takes such dramatic turns that it almost seems as though she lived three lives in one. Almost like three powerful novels culminating in The Last Great Dance on Earth. This one, I felt, was truly a touching and emotional read.


As the first two, the third volume is also written in diary form. In this book however, Sandra Gulland, develops the memoirs even further, without ever altering them. For me, this brought Josephine to life, closer than imaginable. From the beginning of this book, Gulland lures the reader further and further in, until you become totally captivated by Josephine’s life.


It was impossible not to befriend Josephine. Her letters called out to me and I often thought myself to be her priveleged confidante. Gulland skilfully captures our emotions throughout these letters. This can be seen in: Josephine’s unsuccessful and painful ordeals to have Napoleon’s baby; Bonaparte’s family’s disdain for her as well as their scheming plans to rid themselves of her; Josephine’s loneliness; Her pain and humiliation while enduring Bonaparte’s affairs; Her resilience, sacrifice and surrender for the name of love and a greater purpose…and more.


I was able to feel Josephine’s emotions throughout the book. At certain points, I even became angry at her for accepting Napoleon’s affairs; but this didn’t last for long. Despite my views, somehow, I made exceptions for Josephine. I understood her reasons and also came to accept them. She understood Napoleon’s greater purpose and all that it entailed. She understood that he was a man like no other, “Je le veux”- and he conquered. Her voice, feelings and motives came through clearly throughout this historical novel. Very often, I become teary-eyed when reading about the lives of historical figures- but with Josephine, I caught myself sobbing…several times (as though I’d learned about this for the first time). Josephine’s love, tenderness, understanding and total devotion to Napoleon, her man, came first, above all else.


Besides her great love for Napoleon, Josephine’s tremendous love for her children is constant throughout the book. The detail in portraying Josephine as a caring and encouraging mother who stood by her children in their every decision, made her all the more endearing to me. The way Josephine cared for Hortense through her painful family tragedy and marital problems - Her willingness to take care of her grandchildren when Hortense needed her most- her children could always depend on her to be there.


Eugene and Hortense’s letters to her are filled with caring words that reveal love and concern. There is a clear sense of their close and loving relationship in the way they all interact with eachother. They are together and united in every decision, regardless of their own personal feelings; the Divorce being a perfect example of this, as well as, their unity in accepting and welcoming Bonaparte’s decision to marry Marie Louise.


These unbelievably difficult situations which must have required an enormous sense of loyalty, love and acceptance, continuously surface the story to emphasize the passionate life that Josephine lived. And in the end, Eugene’s touching letter announcing the death of his beloved mother to Bonaparte, addressed: Sire, Emperor (Papa), completely moved me to tears. I know it’s history, and I’ve read this all before; Even so, The Last Great Dance on Earth is now forever sealed within my heart.


Up until her death, Josephine only wanted what was best for her Bonaparte, the man who “had inspired her to believe once again in heroes, in destiny, but above all in the miracle of love”. p.4


Passionate times, beautiful details, sorrowful moments, love beyond boundaries- Bringing history to life, The Last Great Dance on Earth is an exceptional book.


…Not difficult to see why this is my favourite Josephine historical novel.

19 comments:

elena maria vidal said...

I have never got around to reading it but definitely will now.

Ms. Lucy said...

It's a wonderful book, Elena. You'll enjoy it;-)

Amy @ Passages to the Past said...

Great review...it sounds soooo good! I've had them on my shelf for a while now, but now I need to bump them up on the ol' tbr pile. I've never read anything about her and she sounds really interesting.

Thanks for the review!

Bearded Lady said...

Lucy, this is my favorite of the three too. I also love Mistress of the Sun.

Ms. Lucy said...

Thanks Amy. It really is very good. I've read a lot of Josephine books- this is by far the best, especially the last one.

Ms. Lucy said...

Hey Bearded Lady! I'll be reading Mistress of the Sun very soon- can't wait;-) Thanks!

Maija said...

You must be my sister!!! I adore Josephine Bonaparte, but my affection for her began last year when I gobbled up Sandra Gullard's trilogy!! Forget about Marie Antionette and her selfish behavior when we have such an intelligent and courageous woman like Josephine! Like you, I love historical fiction containing royalty! So glad my friend sent me here....

Ms. Lucy said...

Hello Maija, so nice for you to visit! Josephine is a treasure! I'm always glad to meet people who share this special interest with me. But I have to tell you that I Adore Marie Antoinette as well; she's been wrongly interpreted and definitely misunderstood.

Yes, history and historical fiction is definitely my passion! Please come visit me again- I'll be posting more interesting stuff about the 18th century, and, Josephine, of course;-)

Arleigh said...

I can't wait to read this one! I've read the first two. I don't know why I stopped at the second. Perhaps I didn't want the story to end ;)

Ms. Lucy said...

Arleigh- I can't believe you said this- that's exactly the reason why I waited to read the last one! But I really found it to be the best one...and let me tell you, you will definitely be sad when you finish it.

God's Princess said...

Lucy you have me itching to go out and buy this book. What a great review!

Melina xx

Ms. Lucy said...

Melina- I can't rave enough about it. Josephine's love is tremendous (you can feel that about her especially in this last volume). It's fantastic.
Have a wonderful day!

Ninon said...

Hi Lucy!
I'm very glad you enjoy my blog! It's highly appreciated. And I'm also very glad to have found your blog! Really wonderful, historical fiction is a genre I really like in literature.
This one - The Last Great Dance on Earth - I've also read, and I remember I enjoyed it much, despite the fact that I hadn't read the two earlier books.
I became also emotionally engaged sometimes - maybe too much -, for example, when they couldn't find a proper husband to Josephine's daughter, I was nearly frustrated at times, thinking "Marry someone, for God's sake! Anyone!" which is interesting, since I always sympathize with all the poor girls who had to marry quickly and in an early age...

Ms. Lucy said...

Hi Ninon! It's so nice to see you here!
This book was emotional for me too. But you're funny about your take on that whole Hortense -husband thing;-) And in the end, it really didn't work out for her and Louis, did it? Thanks so much- I'm looking forward to more of that wonderful music and posts;-)

Bearded Lady said...

Great review. I know I already told you that I am a big fan of the series. I am such a geek...I love that she puts all these interesting footnotes at the bottom so as I am reading, I learn about the real Josephine and the truth behind strange customs.

Bearded Lady said...

Wait....I just realized that they completely redid the cover. I like this one better.

Ms. Lucy said...

I think this one is the one for sale in Canada. Isn't it gorgeous?!

Anonymous said...

A great review for a brilliant book!
I'm glad to know that I'm not the only person who this series had a huge impact on, I feel exactly the same way that you did and found my self bawling my eyes out several times while reading this book. I hope after reading this more people pick up this series.

Anonymous said...

I feel the same way. Love all three books. Is there any evidence that Josephine and Napoleon did continue their relationship secretly following their divorce?