Friday, March 9, 2012
The Secret Life of Josephine by Carolly Erickson
Raised in the Caribbean and forced into a marriage that brings her only unhappiness, Josephine cuts a unique and striking figure in Paris. Managing to survive the French Revolution in spite of coming terribly close to being killed, she, known as Yeyette to her family, makes conquests of men and uses her mercenary talents to be a supplier of goods to the military. Earning the attention of a military man on the rise in Napoleon Bonaparte, she reluctantly agrees to marry him to provide her children with benefits and herself with security. After having other lovers, Yeyette finds that she's earned Napoleon's wrath and becomes the target of his cruelty.
I preface this by saying I read and liked other work by Erickson. Her novels are engaging. That being said I just didn't like this one. I think the largest problem I had was that too many historical liberties were taken and some of the characters were extremely one note. Much of the book is well researched, but for narrative sake, characters and romances were added and perhaps the biggest problem for me was that Napoleon became a one note villain. I'm not saying Napoleon was any sort of saint and that he was an excellent husband, but I am saying that I'm aware enough of the history to know that Napoleon and Josephine remained friends even after he divorced her. Yes, his attitude toward her changed after he found out she was unfaithful, but from what I've read her attitude towards him changed into appreciating him afterwards even though he was now unfaithful. In this book he's set up as a villain that Josephine is trying to overthrow more than anything else. I was aware that liberties were taken with some of Erickson's other novels, but it just felt like way too much here. There came a point that while it was a well written book, there was just too much glaringly not historically accurate that it became distracting to me.