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The Josephine B. Trilogy: The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B; Tale of Passion, Tales of Woe; The Last Great Dance on Earth

by Sandra Gulland

Reviewed by Coral


Told in journal format, these books follow Josephine from her childhood on Martinique as Rose Tascher de la Pagerie, through her move to France and first marriage to Alexandre de Beauharnais, the French Revolution and the Terror, her second marriage to Napoleon until the end of her life.

Although these are three books, I read them as one large omnibus and decided to review them together because I have the same comments for the whole story.

I really enjoyed the story overall, enjoyed learning more about Josephine. There was some suspension of disbelief required, as some of the journal entries didnít really seem plausible (as in, for example, how would she have been able to write anything right after an accident in which she nearly died. It would be more believable if the next entry would have been after her recovery). Some of the entries seemed really detailed, with exact conversations being written out. I know itís to give us a greater view of what was happening and I guess Josephine could have an amazing memory, but I also found that a little implausible.

Because the story is written entirely from Josephineís point of view, there are some characters who I feel werenít explored in enough depth. Napoleon being one of them. But there are others, one for instance who switches sides and whose actions are important to Napoleonís fate, that I wished I knew more about to know what caused them to do what they did.

understand the footnotes were supposed to help fill in the gaps of things that couldnít be explained in the context of journal entries, but it didnít really work for me. Especially since at least one event mentioned in the footnotes (the presumed dead husband of a friend of Josephineís returning to France) that was never really explored in the book.

I know we werenít supposed to like them because Josephine viewed them as enemies, but Napoleonís family was insufferable.

Overall, it was an enjoyable book (or technically, they were enjoyable books).

Grade: B