By: Heather Webb
Format/Source: Advanced Reading Copy courtesy of Plume/Penguin via NetGalley
Rose Tascher sails from her Martinique plantation to Paris to trade her Creole black magic culture for love and adventure. She arrives exultant to follow her dreams of attending Court with Alexandre, her elegant aristocrat and soldier husband. But Alexandre dashes her hopes and abandons her amid the tumult of the French Revolution.
Through her savoir faire, Rose secures her footing in high society, reveling in handsome men and glitzy balls—until the heads of her friends begin to roll.
After narrowly escaping death in the blood-drenched cells of Les Carmes prison, she reinvents herself as Josephine, a socialite of status and power. Yet her youth is fading, and Josephine must choose between a precarious independence and the love of an awkward suitor. Little does she know, he would become the most powerful man of his century- Napoleon Bonaparte.
Becoming Josephine is a novel of one woman’s journey to find eternal love and stability, and ultimately to find herself.
I’ve studied French history a few times during my studies–either through high school World History or in undergrad either tied in with my British history survey courses or European history–but I’ve never studied their history in great detail. Napoleon and Josephine’s relationship and rise to power has always been one of those highlight moments in history that people remember but once I started reading this novel, I realised that I don’t quite know the details of their relationship; I knew that they loved each other fiercely and there were many letters between the two of them but I didn’t know things like how they met or how well they complimented each other. I was especially interested about this novel because it focused much on Josephine, of whose life I knew scant details of.
Be sure to stick around after the review as I am also hosting a giveaway contest for a chance to win a copy of this title (open internationally!) 🙂
Becoming Josephine is a rich novel that follows Rose from her early days in Martinique to her experiences both in the French Royal Court, the rise of the French Revolution and into Napoleon’s life and his Court. It was quite an eye-opener for me as it never occurred to me that Josephine had lived through this tumultuous period of French history and the number of major changeovers of governance at the end of the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth. It was interesting to see these major figures weave in and out of Rose’s (sorry, I’m going to be interchanging between her names here) life as well as the ideas and social sentiments that were prevalent at the time. The reader also gains a sense of the confusion and the precariousness of the period, especially around the time of the Revolution and its descent to the Terror–no one was safe and the reader is left unsure whether certain characters around Rose will live or die.
Speaking of which, Rose/Josephine is a fully-realised character. She has her own dreams, her visions of what she wants out of her life and sticks by them. I felt for her as she is betrayed by some of the people around her, abandoned over and over especially after she had given everything to her husbands. I especially wanted to smack Alexandre, her first husband, nice and good for the way he treated her. Rose underwent a massive learning curve about Paris and Parisian/Court life and customs in the first few years that she was in Paris, including all of the hurt–I just wanted her to be happy! But she also learns a lot about politics and how to navigate amidst powerful figures, how to deal with them especially as later Napoleon turns out to be quite a volatile character (intense but sometimes a little off the mark when it comes to tactfully dealing with certain people). She also has her own faults and makes mistakes, all of which fleshes her out further as a character, making her three-dimensional.
Other characters were also interesting and compelling, some of whom either garnered my sympathy or my annoyance. The Bonaparte family in particular drew my ire and their horrible treatment of Josephine (which again shows how the author was able to draw the reader’s support and sympathy for her character). Napoleon was also a curious character–I wasn’t sure how he would be presented but I rather enjoyed it; from what I know of the figure and how the general public understands his personality, his portrayal here hit all the right notes.
Overall I really enjoyed reading Becoming Josephine. The scope in which the author covered the character’s life is impressive and it feels like the reader is right with her as she lives through such uncertain times. I actually wished this novel was longer as I’ve grown very fond of Josephine and those closest to her–her children, her devoted and caring maid Mimi, etc.–but at the same time I was also rather curious to see where the novel would end in terms of her life. Nonetheless it’s piqued my interest about Napoleon’s family and Josephine’s life (which I started researching a bit further online just to read up on). Readers of French history and historical fiction will definitely want to check out this novel!
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ABOUT HEATHER WEBB
Heather Webb grew up a military brat and naturally became obsessed with travel, culture, and languages. She put her degrees to good use teaching high school French for nearly a decade before turning to full time novel writing and freelance editing. Her debut, BECOMING JOSEPHINE will release December 31, 2013 from Plume/Penguin.
When not writing, Heather flexes her foodie skills or looks for excuses to head to the other side of the world. She loves to chitchat on Twitter with new reader friends or writers (@msheatherwebb) or via her blog, Between the Sheets (www.Heatherwebb.net/blog). Stop on by!
Now that you’ve read my review of the novel, here’s the giveaway for a chance to win a copy! This giveaway contest is open internationally. If the winner selected is from the US/Canada, he/she has a choice between a print copy of the book or an eBook copy. If the winner selected is from anywhere else in the world, he/she will receive an eBook copy of the novel.
Please fill out the following Rafflecopter below to enter. Contest closes on 13 January 2014 at 11:59 PM EST. One (1) winner will be drawn and contacted the following day; you will have 24 hours to claim your prize so please use a valid email address. If you have any questions or if there’s an issue with the Rafflecopter, feel free to comment below or email me.
Many thanks again to France Book Tours for hosting this book tour and letting me be a part of it.