Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Book Review: Desiree: The Bestselling Novel of Napoleon's first Love

Annemarie Selinko's last novel: Desiree has become my top favourite 18th c HF read- without a doubt. The story of Eugenie Desiree Clary, Napoleon Bonaparte's first love is in my opinion one of the best novels ever written pertaining to the Revolution era- in terms of history, romance, historical characters, and impeccable writing style.  This book kept me captivated from beginning to end.  And- the funny thing is that I read this intermittently due to other priorities, so I naturally thought I'd for sure lose momentum and interest.  This never happened and when I finally finished the book, I almost felt the parting sadness when losing a dear friend.

The story begins with Desiree writing the story of her life through a journal given to her by her father, prior to his death.  The daughter of a fabric merchant, Desiree, was unpretentious, straight forward and incredibly brave and loyal in love, honour, friendship and family.  Her strength of character (even when she didn't feel quite up to it...) was incredible.  From the very beginning we can see her determination when it came to saving the raggedy young Napoleon at the beginning of his career.  I loved reading about their romance and meager beginnings...all the short way upto his unfaithfulness and hurtful betrayal to leave Desiree for Josephine.  This though, would not be the end of their encounters.

Throughout their lives, Desiree would always play an important role in Napoleon's life-not amorously, but with extended family and politically.  Her attachment to the Bonaparte family, by the marriage of Napoleon's brother to Desiree's sister- and politically through her husband's (Bernardotte) importance (he first fought along Bonaparte's side and then became the King of Sweden).  The history is impeccable and the story told with the perfect blend of simplicity and grandiose royal style (yes, it's possible).

I loved that Desiree's life entertwined Josephine's and her family- along with all the Bonaparte's and other significant historical characters (Fouche, for one).  The novel takes us through their lives as well, giving a different perspective- and not just passing glimpses.  But, most definitely, what I loved the most was the way Desiree always stood up to Napoleon. We encounter moments of truthful courage where Desiree speaks her opinion frankly and keeps her head high- even though she is terrified inside...others would have surely perished at the hands of Bonaparte for this behaviour- but not Desiree.  This too showed us a side of Napoleon that remained loyal and respectful of the bond and young love they once shared. The book is filled with precious moments.

And what more of this brave girl...Desiree becomes part of Royalty herself; so for those who don't really know that part of history, I won't spoil it for you. I could go on forever about this book: Desire's regular-girl-achieving-great-things personality, her love for her husband, the King of Sweden,  Bonaparte's wins and defeats, Josephine's other side, the Bonaparte family, Desiree's business and Royal side, the losses, the pain, the trials and triumphs and some of the funniest moments as well...It's all just too good.

Desiree is a spectacular book, and I HIGHLY recommend it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

WINNERS of my French Historicals Oh-La-La! Challenge!!!

Happy Monday everyone:)

I'm beginning the week with the Announcement of my French Hisoricals Oh-La-La! Challenge WINNERS!

To begin with I'd like to say Thank You to everyone who joined:)   I loved reading all your reviews and thanks for bringing light to some fascinating new reads for me as well.

If you'd like to see the list of all the participants and the number of books they've read- please see here.
For the lovely reviews of my challenge participants, please see here

AND NOW...WITHOUT FURTHER ADO... Here are the names and results of the participants who have attained the levels required for my Challenge Giveaway!!

LA PRINCESSE: (3 books required)

Arleigh from  = 5 Books
Lizzy from Historically Obsessed = 5 Books
Lady Quinlan from  Let Them Read Books = 5 Books

(Each of These Winners will receive a brand new copy of : Versailles, a novel, by Kathryn Davis)
           EMAIL Me your address please!! 


LA DAUPHINE: (6 books required)

Please Choose 1 Book from the following Selection and EMAIL me your Choice (1st come first serve basis!)- and your address too:)

1)-Bluebird or The Invention of Happiness, Sheila Kohler Claimed by: Marie of The Burton Review
2)-Duchess of Aquitaine, Margaret Ball Claimed by: Heather of The Maiden's court
4)-To Dance With Kings, Rosalind Laker (Hard Cover-gently used) Claimed by: Cat of Tell Me a Story
5)-Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe, Sandra Gulland + The Last great Dance on Earth, Sandra Gulland Set of 2 Gently UsedClaimed by: Mel U of The Reading Life


There were no Reine Levels attained...but 1 most Definite Winner of 

This incredible lady has read way over the 9 Books required for this level.

22 BOOKS!!!!!

This is an incredible amount of books- and she's got all the reviews to prove it!!!  So, in this very particular case, you can surely understand my trouble at finding a book to suit this winner's voracious appetite for reading...

SO, Amber, I am awarding you a special book from  my precious antique historical collection:

Heloise and Abelard, by George Moore-----1925.  It is in mint condition (there's also an antique looking signature at the front) and I am offering it to you because I absolutely know it will go to a true lover of French history. I LOVE This book and I know it will be appreciated and treasured in its new home.  Email me with your contact info.

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL!!!  Again, THANK YOU so much for participating!!!