The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B.
August 2, 2016 5:42 PM - by Sandra Gulland - Subscribe

You will be unhappily wed. You will be widowed. You will be queen. "When Marie-Josephe-Rose Tascher was a girl in Martinique, a voodoo priestess predicted that she would be unhappily married, would then be widowed, and would become queen. With the profits from her father's sugar plantation spent largely on his gambling and drinking, the final prediction seems unlikely. An arranged marriage takes Rose to France, where she finds herself woefully uneducated and unprepared for high society. But in 1779 no one is prepared for the bloody upheaval that will convulse France for years. Rose endures her husband's infidelity and abandonment before his execution leaves her a widow. Combining charm, intelligence, empathy, and luck, she copes with poverty and prison, surviving the revolution with her children. " -- Library Journal

This is the June August book for the Historical Fiction Book Club. Remember that FanFare posts don't close and you can continue to discuss prior books (if it takes you a while to get around to them) for as long as you'd like!

Reading Guide Discussion Questions

There are two sequels: Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe and The Last Great Dance on Earth -- just in case you read the first one and can't stop, as I did.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (3 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
He just up and declared her a new name?!?!? FFS. I doubt I would have picked up this book, but for your post about it here, and I am glad I did. I found it vivid and horrifying and thoroughly engaging.
In the grand scheme (namely the Terror) the renaming is not the worst thing ever. But it is also the worst thing, in the vein of the horror movie heroine heading for the basement, alone.
posted by janell at 11:43 AM on September 24, 2016

I know this is shockingly late but I bought and read this book based on this thread!

I enjoyed it, well worth the couple of bucks it cost me on Kindle. I do so enjoy reading accounts of the French revolution.

I found Rose a little bit of a Mary Sue - how did she maintain her steadfast innocence and good faith, I would like to have seen a little more "sandiness" to her.

But that, said, I think in some ways the book needed a protagonist like that. I also enjoyed the diary framing. That doesn't always work for me, but in this case I found it really helped the pacing and her voice was realistic. Eyebrows, what did you think of the sequels?
posted by smoke at 10:34 PM on April 23, 2017

Via the recent Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun post on the Blue, I was reading Vigée Le Brun's Memoirs today and came upon this brief anecdote from 1801:
A few days after my return [to France] Mme. Bonaparte called upon me one morning. She spoke of the balls at which we had been together before the Revolution; she was most cordial, and even invited me to dinner at the First Consul's. However, the date of this dinner was never mentioned.
I imagine neither was inclined to follow through on that invitation, only to offer and receive a polite gesture. But had they done so, it might have led to a portrait of Josephine by Vigée Le Brun, and that would be something I'd like to see.
posted by valetta at 3:31 AM on April 25, 2017

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