Thursday, February 25, 2010


Sandra Gulland's THE LAST GREAT DANCE ON EARTH is available here on Amazon. I give this book *****.

This is my fourth book review linked to Food for Thought hosted by the incredibly talented Jain of Food with Style and Once in a Blue Moon. Be sure to visit each of these sites. You will not be disappointed!

THE LAST GREAT DANCE ON EARTH is the third and final book in Sandra Gulland's series on Josephine Bonaparte. Thus I write this post with a bit of melancholy, for this one ends with Josephine's death. Through these works, I've truly come to love and admire Josephine as a dear, dear friend. I will miss her.

As with the previous books in this series, the author uses fictional diaries written in Josephine's voice. In the opening pages of this final novel, Josephine and Napoleon have moved into the Tuileries where they celebrate their fourth anniversary. Napoleon continues to rise in power and is declared First Consul for Life.

The saga of Josephine's trials continue. She faces difficult times and much stress because of Napoleon's family. The fact that she has not conceived a child complicates her relationship as the wife of Napoleon. France needs an heir!

Josephine has to come to terms with the knowledge of Napoleon's infidelities. Both Josephine and Bonaparte struggle with the strains upon their marriage: her inability to conceive and Napoleon's wandering eye. The love story continues, and the two remain passionate about one another as their love continues to bind them to their destiny.

With amazing fortitude and ingenuity, Josephine prevails. On December 2, 1804, Napoleon and Josephine are crowned Emperor and Empress of France. It is from this passage that I took my inspiration for connecting with food. I found it touching and intimate that this couple shared a simple meal, just the two of them alone, at the close of such an eventful, historical day. A roast chicken is always a favorite around here, but it was the soufflé that caught my attention. Like Bonaparte, I'd like to eat mine first. You know the saying, "Life's short. Eat dessert first!"

Rather than a simple vanilla soufflé, ours is Grand Marnier.

This delicate dessert soufflé is rather simple made with heavy cream, a bit of butter, sugar, flour, orange zest, 6 eggs, and of course a healthy dose of Grand Marnier. The aroma as it was baking filled our home with the most amazing fragrance.

Please, have a bite and think of Napoleon and Josephine as they celebrated their coronation.

After Napoleon and Josephine divorced, Josephine was given her beloved Malmaison, where she spent the last years of her life. She was an avid gardener and devoted much of her energy to establish the gardens of Malmaison. She cultivated many new plants grown in France, and her rose garden is renown for some 250 varieties of roses. Josephine Bonaparte died in 1814. The Chateau de Malmaison is just a short distance from the heart of Paris, and today is a museum open from April to October. The official apartments are open and include Josephine's clothes, china, glass, and personal things. Read more about this national French treasure here and here.

Now at the end of these three wonderful books, I, too, "have tears in my heart".

For through these works of fiction, Sandra Gulland has given me a beloved friend in Josephine who will always be dear to my heart. I appreciate this new perspective of the fascinating Josephine, and like Sandra, I hope that continued research into the life of Josephine Bonaparte proves to vindicate her. Though each of these novels stand on their own, I recommend that they be read in succession as they seamlessly chronicle the life of Josephine Bonaparte.

I read somewhere that Josephine adored both the sight and scent of violets, and that after her death Napoleon wore a locket of violets from Josephine's garden at Malmaison. I think this is a lovely thought for the love story of Napoleon and Josephine.