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on 21 May 1999
Carrolly Erickson is a talented researcher and author, and her new biography on Empress Josephine is another very good read. I have a problem, however, with Erickson's habit of falling a little too much in love with some of her less admirable subjects. Josephine, while an exceptional character study, does not deserve the relentless emphasis Erickson places on her few redeeming qualities. Josephine was, in fact, a shallow and self-indulgent liar, swindler, whore, and manipulator extraordinaire. Although Erickson acknowledges these traits, she plays them down by repeatedly referencing Josephine's ingenuousness, compassion, and victim qualities, none of which are visible without Erickson's careful coaching. Erickson displayed this same oh-come-now-she's-not-so-bad-if-you'll-only-try approach with Mary Tudor ("Bloody Mary"). The book ended, appropriately, with Josephine's funeral. But I wanted to know what happened to her two children, Napolean's new wife, and even the loathsome Bonapart relatives. These were not peripheral characters; they were integral components of Josephine's life and a quick wrap-up sketch of each would have made the ending much more satisfying. I'm glad I read this book and recommend it to other biography and history lovers. Even so it's difficult to resist a spectacular kind of repugnance towards Josephine, notwithstanding Erickson's unfortunate and obvious urging to the contrary.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 16 January 2010
"Josephine: Life of the Empress" introduces the reader to one of the most interesting characters of one of the most turbulent periods of history. Born to a Creole family in Martinique, Josephine relocated to Metropolitan France where she married to a man who would die on the Guillotine. Herself in danger of death during the Revolution, she survived to become the wife of the Corsican officer, Napoleon Bonaparte. Rising with him to the pinnacle of French society, Josephine, the Creole commoner, would rule alongside him as Empress. During her life with Napoleon she would endure the hostile machinations of his family while walking a tight rope to maintain her position. Unable to produce an heir, Josephine was forced to renounce her marriage and retire to a less favored, but still exalted, position. Although divorced, the tie between Josephine and her Emperor was never totally severed.

This is a many splendored work. Part love story, part biography and part history, it is attractive to many types of readers. While following Josephine through her life, the reader learns much about the era during which she lived and reigned; a France of colony, Revolution and Empire. Author Carolly Erickson's writing holds attention with the skill of a master. Enjoy, appreciate, savor!
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on 1 October 2012
For those seeking basic knowledge of this most fascinating of lives, this is an excellent place from which to start -
research is solid and the book is factually informative. Where the purpleness of the prose arises is in the rather weak
character analyses, the at times slightly judgemental tone, and the lack of linkage of key events of Jospehine's life to the grand scheme of European events.
That said, this is an excellent and informative read, and well worth a look.
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on 9 May 1999
I have read several historical biographies by Carolly Erickson, and enjoyed them. This one is no exception. It is easy to read and chock-full of historical information. I also recommend that if you can get your hands on copies of "To The Scaffold, The Life of Marie Antoinette" and "Mistress Anne, The Exceptional Life of Ann Boleyn," you definitely do so!
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on 9 May 1999
I have read several historical biographies by Carolly Erickson, and enjoyed them. This one is no exception. It is easy to read and chock-full of historical information. I also recommend that if you can get your hands on copies of "To The Scaffold, The Life of Marie Antoinette" and "Mistress Anne, The Exceptional Life of Ann Boleyn," you definitely do so!
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on 13 July 1999
On the whole, I found this biography to be rich with detail and historical accuracies. It was an entertaining read and I recommend it to anyone who likes to read history. However, I found that Erickson was a little too biased in her position on the Empress; I felt as though I were reading a fluffed-up account of her life, to the point where the reader has no choice but to see her as an angel in a den of thieves--and she was hardly an angel. Erickson asserts that she knows the Empress well enough to make assumptions as to how she felt, or what she was thinking. It is also obvious that the author has a bias against Napoleon and her relationship with him. If the reader had no previous knowledge of their relationship, he would be confused. Erickson says on the one-hand how miserable Josephine was over her marriage to him, yet is mad with jealousy within the next few pages. There is no real development of their relationship. The authors feelings for her subject come through a bit too stong for my taste.
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on 15 June 1999
I found this book empty. There is nothing new. The author does not appear to have an in-depth knowledge of the characters and circumstances she describes. The description of landscapes, gardens, cities, in France as well as in Italy, shows that the author borrowed her ideas from works from previous authors. Please read the book "Josephine" written by Andre Castelot and compare!
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