Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Review: Désirée - The Bestselling Story of Napoleon's First Love

Title: Désirée - The Bestselling Story of Napoleon's First Love
Author: Annemarie Selinko
Narrator: Nicole Quinn

Publisher: BlueBarnProductions (according to audible entry; however, the disclaimer at the end of the audiobook gives the impression that this audiobook was actually self-published by the narrator)
Length: 26 hours (unabridged)

Genre: Historical Novel
Setting: 19th century France with small portions of the book set in other countries, eg Sweden
Style: Epilostary (told in Désirée's diary entries)

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

As the title suggests, this book tells the story of Bernardine Eugénie Désirée Clary, who later becomes Désirée Bernadotte and Queen of Sweden. She was born into a family of silk merchants and never had high aspirations. It was a coincidence that Désirée (who was then still known as Eugénie) met Joseph Bonaparte, the elder brother of Napoléon Bonaparte. She invited the brothers to her home for a dinner. Her family was indignant at Désirée's behavior. Napoléon was already a distinguished general, but the Bonapartes were a poor family of Corsican immigrants. Thus the Carlys did not want to have anything to do with them. But Napoléon's charme managed to capture the family and soon both brothers were regular guests at the Clary's. Désirée's sister Julie married Joseph and Désirée got engaged to Napoléon.
But destiny would not have Désirée as Napoléon's wife. Before the marriage Napoléon left for Paris in order to convince the political leaders of France of his plans for France. In Paris Napoléon also meets Joséphine de Beauharnais. While Désirée had a large dowry, Josephine has influence in Paris. Thus Napoléon dissolves his engagement with Désirée and marries Josephine instead. At first Désirée is devastated, but soon she finds a new love as well in General Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte. Jean-Baptiste even becomes one of the Marshalls of France under Emperor Napoléon.

This novel details Désirées life from her teenage years until her fifties. It is presented in the form of Désirée's diary entries. I'm always a bit ambivalent about books written as a diary, because this can go terribly wrong. However, in this case it seems to have been the perfect choice. Désirée writes entries whenever something decisive happened in her life. This gives a vivid picture of the time and Désirée's life without getting boring with too much detail (a problem quite a few historical novels have). It is easy to empthise with Désirée and I enjoyed her story very much. I can easily understand why this books belongs in the category of bestsellers.

The audiobook production lives up the the story. The narrator, Nicole Quinn, has a calm voice that is is pleasant to listen to. However, I had one problem with the audiobook: There were quite a few sudden volume changes. This is especially bad when one listens in the car or with headphones.

All in all this is a very enjoyable novel and I'll probably listen to the audiobook again some time and might even look for other books by Selinko. I'm torn between four and five stars in this case but tend towards four. Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

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