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 *****