Thursday, April 09, 2015

469 (2015 #26). The Secret Life of Josephine

by Carolly Erickson,
read by Margot Dionne

In an afternote to the reader, Carolly Erickson describes this (and her then-previous novels The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette and The Last Wife of Henry VIII) as "a historical entertainment, not a historical novel" and "a way of blending fact and whimsy...[a] somewhat frothy mix." If you are looking for good historical fiction about Marie Jos├Ęphe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie de Beauharnais, better known as Josephine Bonaparte, there are far better books out there.

Hopefully readers will see the afternote - unfortunately, it was not included in the audiobook I listened to - as it clarifies that the real Josephine never went to Russia (probably the most ridiculous thing that happened in this book), among other liberties with the truth.  The other inventions I found easier to accept, as they were more in character with the real Josephine, but the trip to Russia during Napoleon's defeat there was just too over the top for me to stomach.

Like Alison Weir, Erickson has written nonfiction biographies of many of the subjects of her "historical entertainments," and I'd be interested in reading one to evaluate its scholarship and readability.

Actress and acting professor Margot Dionne has a perfect voice for Josephine, who narrates the story - just vivacious and coquettish enough.  However, when she put on thick French accents for some of the minor characters, I found her very difficult to understand.

This is a fun read, as long as the reader/listener understands that it is only very loosely based on the truth.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[The audiobook, and a print copy for reference, were borrowed from and returned to my local public library.]

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