Good Lord, this should have been posted sooner, but I have been in that nightmarish state of wanting to write but having no willpower to get tappity at the keyboard for anything besides assignments for weeks.
But I’m back, and following on from Joséphine B., I dove straight into this trilogy’s next installment, which was solid. Tales of Passion does not veer from the established style of its predecessor, and offers little by way of surprise, but the strengths of the first novel are carried through, with Joséphine (the name Rose is sacrificed upon marriage to Bonaparte) remaining a compelling protagonist witness to the turmoils of a fascinating era.
Fame was the last thing I’d expected from marriage to Bonaparte. Strange, intense little Napoléon, the ill-mannered Corsican – a hero now, the Liberator of Italy. The man to whom kings bowed.
Whereas Joséphine B. follows a girl through adolescence and well into her adult life, Tales of Passion covers the much shorter period of time between Joséphine’s marriage to Napoleon and her ascension to the French throne.
The narrative is much more complicated, with a great deal more intrigue and political drama playing out around our protagonist, and embroiling her in its chaos.
This is not always a good thing, since Gulland’s writing often lacks the dexterity to handle these numerous intricate events. In places the novel has a glossing quality which makes me wonder why the the editor did not license an extra hundred pages.
“I told you, this will be bloodless.”
“There are other ways to ruin a man.”
That being said, however, Joséphine is an older woman in this text, and entering a phase of life in which age becomes a concern, which I found engrossing. I am so accustomed to historical novels which focus on women during their early years that it was refreshing to read about a woman slipping past childbearing, an era of womanhood which most novels, with their focus on young, developing protagonists, never explore.
Also, though there is some depth missing when it comes to the politics, this novel is effective in digging deep into its characters’ emotions. I found it interesting to see the late summer of someone’s life as the era in which romance enters. The problematic, passionate and powerful relationship between Joséphine and Napoleon is one of this novel’s greatest strengths, especially impressive since much of it is long distance during this installment.
I won’t go so far as to say I loved this novel – I do think it is the weakest of the trilogy – but as an essential part of a thoroughly engaging series, there is little I can truly fault.
Now, alone in my boudoir, I look through the thick file, the names of so many thousands of men and women, and I am overwhelmed. Can I do this? I pray for strength.