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Napoleon & Josephine: An Improbable Marriage (Phoenix Giants) Paperback – 7 Oct 1996

4.2 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Paperback, 7 Oct 1996
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Product details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson; New edition edition (7 Oct. 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857994892
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857994896
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 4 x 21.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,257,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From the Publisher

Antonia Fraser explains why this is one of her favourites...
The marriage of the Corsican-born Napoleon, then a young army officer, to the languid, promiscuous Creole beauty, Josephine de Beauharnais, brought together two complete opposites. Josephine, the widow of a man guillotined in the Terror, was indeed extremely reluctant to take the plunge and it was only the need for a protector which swayed her. Napoleon on the other hand was physically obsessed by Josephine, but also believed that her political influence in the salons of Paris would help him in his urgent struggle to succeed. What is so compelling about this book - apart from the tempestuous love story it tells - is the brilliant use Evangeline Bruce makes of the contrast between to the two worlds from which the couple came. Her acute sense of social observation recreates the background of the Napoleons, explains the hostility to Josephine, the power of Napoleon's mother, before passing to Josephine's own exotic early life and then, unforgettably, the Paris of the Directorate and the Empire.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Anybody with a slight interest in Napoleon I or his age, the period of French history known as First Empire, is aware that after his fall power in France was regained by the Bourbon dynasty that had been replaced first by the Revolution, then by Napoleon's Consulate and Empire. Even during his life, after his abdication, he was violently vilified by Royalist propaganda, as never a dethroned sovereign was in all History. Besides the obvious political reasons for that hatred, there was the xenophobic one: not only Bonaparte, the former Emperor of the French, was not of French noble birth, but also he wasn't French at all. Josephine, on the other hand, who was always a representative of the Ancien Regime, regardless of her being Napoleon's wife for 13 years, was beloved by the Royalists, she, who was of French, though doubtful, noble birth.

Evangeline Bruce's book could have been written during the Bourbon Restoration, between 1815 and 1830, being, as it is, a compendium of all kinds of Royalist gossip and slander ever written against Napoleon and his Italian family, whereas Josephine and her French family are always treated fairly and sympathetically. Bruce sees Napoleon as a natural born monster: cynical, unscrupulous, ambitious, calculating, tyrannical and a bloodthirsty warmonger, in a word, the Corsican Ogre, that famous boogeyman invented by French and English Royalists to extinguish all trace of the Revolution which, according to them, was embodied by that single man.

She denies him any patriotism or idealism. She denies him any merit, attributing his military successes to his marshals and his political ones to his "incredible luck.
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Format: Paperback
I read this book several years ago, and it still stands out in my mind as the best non-fiction book I have ever read. Mrs Bruce was both a meticulous scholar as well as a gifted story teller. I literally could not put it down - even woke up at 2.oo am and picked it up to find out what happened next! Mrs Bruce made full use of the extensive archive material available in Paris, (she was the wife of the American Ambassador) to paint a vivid portrait of both the private and public lives of her subjects. Her treatment of her subject is sympathetic without being sentimental - a very difficult line to tread. At some 486 pages, this is a large and detailed book, but I can thoroughly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good read, let alone those who are interested in this subject. What a pity Mrs Bruce died before she could write any further books. We are all the poorer.
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Format: Paperback
Once I had picked up this book I could not put it down. Napoleon and Josephine are one history's most infamous couples - but few people know (or write)about the intrigue, politics or circumstance of how this couple got together. Although it may seem to be a "heavy" book, the pages slip by as it is very well written.
The book was obviously well researched and written by someone who was really enamored by this period. My only regret is that, this is Evangeline Bruce's only book. As mentioned in previous reviews, I also am intrigued to read other biographies of the people involved in the politics of this era.
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