The Second Empress Paperback – 14 Mar 2013
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'A first-class novel, brilliantly written' Alison Weir. (Alison Weir)
About the Author
Michelle Moran was born in California. While getting her Masters at Claremont Graduate University, Michelle published her first historical fiction novel, Jezebel. She has traveled around the world - including to Israel, where she participated in an archaeological dig that inspired her to begin writing historical fiction. She lives in Southern California.
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Top Customer Reviews
It really annoys me when facts and history are explained by the characters to each other, such as when Metternich attempts to explain Napoleon's good points to Maria-Lucia. Emancipated the Jews? Tick. (Oh, she had a Jewish nanny so that's all right then, she clearly cares!), A visionary? Tick. (Even though Metternich is hardly known for sympathizing with the visionaries!!!) Code of Laws based on Justinian? Tick. Would there not have been a less clumsy way of getting the history in without having people explain it to each other? If you live through something, you understand it as it unfolds, you don't need another character handing out mini synopses left right and centre!!
Anyway, just my $2.
Apart from that, the book was ok, just a light read really with some BAD characters (Pauline), some NICE characters (Maria-Lucia, Adam and Paul) and some really colourless characters (Caroline, Pauline's lovers... yawn).
Next book, PLEASE don't try to be Philippa Gregory!!
The title is my main criticism of this otherwise fine book. The eponymous Marie-Louise is only one of several main characters. I also felt the author made too much use of chapter heading quotes and letters within the text as these slow down the narrative drive.
Overall, though, the book is well-written, easy to read, and the characters finely drawn - the reader roots for the downtrodden Marie and loathes Pauline. Moran has thoroughly researched her story, as is evidenced by her extensive author's notes. Napoleon's and Pauline's incestuous affair is apparently factual.
This is the story of Austrian archduchess Marie Louise who at the age of nineteen married Napoleon Bonaparte and became his second wife and mother to the sole heir of the French Empire. At the time the French court was a wild place and this young, shy and politically inexperienced girl had to fill her predecessor shoes, Empress Joséphine (Napoleon`s first wife) and command a small army of servants and courtiers. This may be her story but the Emperor took a great chunk of this novel, it felt more like a character study about the illustrious figure`s carnal appetites and idiosyncrasies than anything else……
According to her notes, the author`s mentioned trying to be as close as possible to the historical record, especially where personalities were concerned and wanted to show her readers how powerful Napoleon really was and how everyone orbited around him, regardless if they were family or servants. This story is told from three points of views: Napoleon`s sister, the sex-crazed and Egypt obsess Pauline, Marie-Louise who loathed her husband and in love with and Austrian count and a young Haitian chamberlain Paul Moreau, whose love for Pauline was indisputable. The author has created quite a remarkable portrayal of characters and they truly shine in this novel.
This shrewd tale show Napoleon`s later life, personal exploits, his character traits. His marriage to Marie-Louise being a cold tactic of force against the Austrian nation and her acceptance was only in fear and loyalty to her country and through this union save her father`s throne. Ms. Moran punctuated the novel with letters between Napoleon and Josephine and historical titbits. The flow is smooth and keeps the steady pace throughout. Not different from any historical fiction we have an enhanced story that deviated from facts to make the experience more entertaining. Although nicely written this one is not my favourite in the author’s library.
Set in the final years of Napoleon's reign (1810-1815), this is a very female-centric, domestic novel which eschews politics for the love lives of Napoleon and his women.
Napoleon himself, now 40, divorces Josephine and takes the 19 year old Marie-Louise of Austria as his wife to provide him with a male heir. His sister, Pauline, who has designs on both her brother and, more importantly, the imperial throne is less than pleased and plots her own power play.
This is a kind of history-lite novel which will probably please fans of Philippa Gregory. It's full of lush descriptions of dresses and jewels (e.g. when Marie-Louise is told she is to marry Napoleon, she's compensated by the fact that she'll have more furs and jewellery than any ruler in Europe), while big political events happen off-stage (`He lost the battle of Waterloo', he says. `Fifty thousand men dead. He will be banished to the island of Saint Helena to live out his days').
So this is light and easy reading with an uncomplicated portrait of Napoleon as a callous and cold ruler - it gives us a very girlie view of history and politics, and is undoubtedly flimsy and insubstantial but in an enjoyable way.
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