Thursday, January 28, 2010


I recently completed Sandra Gulland's trilogy of Josephine Bonaparte. If you are a fan of historical fiction, Gulland's trilogy should definitely be on your list of must reads.

After reading this trio, I felt as if I had just had three scoops of my favorite ice cream, each with a cherry on top! I delighted in each book as if it was a delicious treat!

Captivated by Sandra Gulland's novels, I found that each one left me desiring more. Admittedly, I knew little of Josephine's history and was quickly drawn into these beautiful works of historical fiction.

The first of the series, THE MANY LIVES & SECRET SORROWS OF JOSEPHINE B. introduces the reader to Rose, a young girl born and raised on the lush tropical island of Martinico in the Caribbean. Gulland skillfully reveals the voice of Rose (Josephine) through fictionalized diary entries. In this first book the reader experiences a taste of Créole life on this exotic island where Rose's family owns a sugar plantation. We learn of Rose's early experience with a fortune teller in which the voodoo witch predicts that Rose will someday become Queen.

Food references are sparse among the pages, but one can easily imagine the wealth of fresh fish and an abundance of colorful fruits on this lush island.

Rose, the oldest of three girls, desires only to go live in France with her beautiful Aunt Désirée, her father's sister. With the untimely death of Rose's younger sister Catherine, Rose finds she is indeed on a journey across the Atlantic to meet the wealthy man to whom she is betrothed.

Only 15 years of age and naive in the ways of the world, Rose is understandably nervous about meeting her future husband. Amused by the passage above, you'll see that Rose does not like eels and is comforted to know that her intended dislikes them as well.

Another entry, relates the elegance and abundance of pre-Revolutionary France. Though as the entries progress the reader travels along Rose's rocky road of married life with Alexandre Beauharnais. Betrayed, widowed, and left in poverty, Rose endures a difficult life.

Arrested and imprisoned Rose suffers unbearable conditions,

existing on meals of sardines and boiled haricots served once a day.

Once released, conditions weren't much improved.

Breadsticks and wine . . .

or slipcoat cheese.

Considering that the majority of this chapter of Rose's life was lean and difficult, I chose to replicate her daily prison cuisine of sardines and haricots.

Honoring this elegant lady, I wouldn't dare serve her on an old metal plate. Instead dinner is served on 19th century French faience.

And includes a sweet salad of island fruits: mangos and kiwi . . .

With a glass of fine wine and artisan bread. Actually, this was a tasty dinner!

It's near the end of this book that Josephine meets Napoleon, and we get a hint at what is to follow in this relationship.

So there I leave you until we pick back up with TALES OF PASSION, TALES OF WOE.

Thanks to our hostess, Jain, for creating this delectable blog of book reviews. Click here to see a list of others who are participating in Food for Thought.

THE MANY LIVES & SECRET SORROWS OF JOSEPHINE B. is available here @ Amazon. I give this book Five *****


The summer we married, my husband was in graduate school, and I was employed as a teacher. We took a portion of our savings that summer and purchased a sailboat. We christened our Catalina 22, “Hyacinths For The Soul” after Saadi’s poem. Our "Hyacinths" provided years of pleasure.


  1. i honestly had goosebumps... i had to calm myself down and read slowly, i was sooooo excited at your post i wanted to race through, its just so fun to see everything you shared! i cannot tell you how happy it makes me to see everyone share books and food, its great fun isn't it!

    you do such a super job at these, i am adding these to my wishlist, the way you presented everything is fantastic!

    i read van gogh's table because of you, it was so fun to reread your post now that i read it, makes things ten times more enjoyable the second time around!

    thank you SO much for sharing with food for thought, i am loving every minute of this!

  2. What a beautiful post! the books sounds so intriguing ...Id certainly like to know more about Rose.And your photos are lovely!!!! wonderful entry!

  3. It looks like a really good book! I think I need to find that one at the bookstore. What an entertaining way to make a meal! :-)

  4. Although a portrait of NB presides over our staircase I have to admit to not knowing very much about his life, especially his relationship with Josephine.
    That's something I feel I must put right before your visit in April!!
    Hope the move goes well.

  5. HOw fascinating - I'll have to investigate! I love a good historical novel.

    Although I draw the line at sardines, I definitely support the ice cream.

    If you haven't already read these books, I highly recommend:
    Through a Glass Darkly and the Angelique series (also in the same time frames).

  6. Good Morning Sarah,

    I must say that for those of us that have not heard of the books, you have piqued my interest!! Your pictures sure set the stage for the time era. You know, I actually have eaten eel and it was GOOD!! It doesn't taste like chicken but more like a sweet catfish.

    It is so much fun reading your posts. They always delight me and I almost always learn something that I did't know.

    I am anxious to hear about the rest of the books!

    Best wishes for a great weekend!

  7. Awwww, you are such a good teacher, Sarah! Every attention to detail is magnificent & your words sing. I wish I could hear you speak so I would have a voice to add to them.

    This is such a lovely post....even with the fish heads showing!! LOL

    Your calligraphy is also beautiful & makes me want to get my pens out & practice some more. I've not done it in years. Perhaps for Valentine's Day.

    Thank you for sharing such an interesting post. I'm loving this Food For Thought meme.

  8. Great review of the book! I like historical fiction, too. Your photos are lovely.

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  10. Even the placecard~ I just saw a recipe for fresh sardines..and thought wow they just look so good on a plate and here you are.It all looks wonderful~

  11. These sound interesting Sarah. Josephine has a place in my heart for two reasons, she loved her garden and roses, and I've always felt how terrible it must have been to be dumped for someone younger.

    Great job, as always.

  12. I read these years ago and devoured them as a hungry servant would have. I love French history and will never forget the descriptions of the smell of blood in the streets through the Rein of Terror. It humbled me as I walked through modern Paris.

    Thanks for your tale...lovely!


  13. Sarah, what an interesting post! You don't do anything half way, do you? That plate is gorgeous! laurie

  14. I loved this series too. So descriptive and fascinating - it's really stuck with me.
    Beautiful job with the food!

  15. Hi Sarah! You know I loved this post! I have always liked Josephine. Years ago, I was fortuante enough to visit Malmaison, her chateau outside of Paris! It's beautiful...swans everywhere and on everything! But best of all...they had some of her pretty clothes and tiny shoes...fascinating! Happy week!...hugs...Debbie

  16. Hi Sarah
    I enjoy historical fiction so I wil definitely be seeing if our library has this series
    Hugs, Rhondi

  17. Wow! I'm amazed! Such a DELICIOUS review! I'm going to post this to my website.

    Thank you!

    Sandra Gulland (author)


  18. What gorgeous pictures! I feel like I'd have to get better at photography before I get started participating, but I definitely want to - maybe in another month or two. Thanks again for bringing Food for Thought to my attention.

    Oh, and I love historical fiction - these books sound really intriguing!

  19. Lovely post Sarah, thank you for your sweet comment, Mam is in hospital tonight and getting morphine for her pain. I will keep my blog updated.

  20. I have never seen sardines so beautifully presented, lol. Thanks for sharing this, Sarah. Unfortunately, we cannot have tea for Valentine cause I won't be here. I have to tend to my daughter having a baby and watch the babies, 2 by then I hope...Christine

  21. Your lovely Faience looks very like it comes from Provence (sometimes Brittany has lovely faience like that too...). But what is Slip coat cheese??? Lovely lovely and I am hankering for grilled sardines now ;-)

  22. Being that I am not much of a reader, this presentation your have put together has certainly made me think twice about reading...not that I haven't should see my collection of "Oprah's Book Club" in my cabinet! Not one has been read past the first few pages. I get bored very quickly...and if the first few pages don't peek my interests...then it's put down. Must be the artist in me? Haven't a clue.

    Thank you Sarah, for sharing these reads! I may just have to order them and place them in my sitting room to read and NOT the cabinet where the dust bunnies have taken over my other reads!

    Hope your trip and the move went well.

    Have a Creative Day!

  23. You've definitely aroused my intrest in this trilogy. My mother was actually named for this Josephine, so I think it would be a good idea to learn a bit more about her... Your photos are wonderful. They're a joy unto themselves.

  24. I love those books. I read them years ago and enjoyed each one. I think it's time to read them again.
    I also love sardine, your plate looks good enough to entice me into prison.
    Lovely post, you did justice to the books.

  25. I do remember when you shared your very enviable collection of Napoleon and Josephine plates, etc. I did look into gathering a few pieces for my tea but it was beyond my price point. So, I am making various things inspired by this historic pair of ill fated lovers. I hope it will being you a bit of joy.


Thank you to each of you who take the time to leave a comment. I read and appreciate each and every one and will respond to any questions. Your notes are the only way I know who has stopped in for a visit.