The last time I saw Napoleon, he was hanging out in a circular tomb with a viewing deck above. My French teacher told me it was his plan that for time immemorial, anyone who visited his grave would be obliged to bow their head to him. Imagine what it would be like to be married to such a guy?
That's the task Heather Webb takes on in her debut historical novel Becoming Josephine.
She's gotten great reviews already (it came out New Year's Eve--an auspicious date for starting a new writing life, and it has already paid off. Heather just got a second book deal for a novel about Camille Claudel, Rodin's lover!) and has been enjoying a great launch for her wonderful book.
Here's the tantalizing description of Becoming Josephine:
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 been enjoying the book very much. I think one strength so far has been its unflinching look at the truly violent world of the French Revolution. It was not called the Terror for nothing--and Webb really shows us Paris upended and dangerous. A scene where Josephine watches a nun running for her life (the revolutionaries despised Catholicism and ordered a death-on-sight law for priests in 1793) was memorable and harrowing.
I also appreciated learning that Josephine was not a Parisienne by birth--she was a Creole born in Martinique. Scenes from her childhood on that tropical island fortify her character as a woman who endures much suffering to land on top...temporarily.
Josephine's life was rich, colorful, tragic--and although I haven't finished the book yet, I can see Webb has perfectly told her tale. Heartily recommended!
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