Saturday, February 25, 2017

REVIEW : Becoming Josephine by Heather Webb

Becoming Josephine
by Heather Webb

Publisher: Plume
Page Count: 310
Release Date: December 31, 2013
Format: Kindle

How got: personal buy via Amazon

First attention getter: reviews by other bloggers

Synopsis:

From GoodReads:

Rose Tascher sails from her Martinique plantation to Paris to trade her Creole black magic culture for love and adventure. She arrives exultant to follow her dreams of attending Court with Alexandre, her elegant aristocrat and soldier husband. But Alexandre dashes her hopes and abandons her amid the tumult of the French Revolution.

Through her savoir faire, Rose secures her footing in high society, reveling in handsome men and glitzy balls—until the heads of her friends begin to roll.

After narrowly escaping death in the blood-drenched cells of Les Carmes prison, she reinvents herself as Josephine, a socialite of status and power. Yet her youth is fading, and Josephine must choose between a precarious independence and the love of an awkward suitor. Little does she know, he would become the most powerful man of his century- Napoleon Bonaparte.

Becoming Josephine is a novel of one woman's journey to find eternal love and stability, and ultimately to find herself.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 5

I chose to indulge in another look at Josephine after reading an account that left a bad taste in my mouth. In the previous take, she is portrayed as a shallow and vain woman, only interested in her own survival and self-indulgence. I found few redeeming qualities in her. I didn't want that to be my last take on her so I cracked open this novel, knowing it had some great reviews. I'm glad I did as Heather Webb has woven an intricate tale of a woman caught in the maelstrom of change and revolution yet who is able to keep her personality intact, navigating cruel politics and personal relationships.

Josephine’s characterization in this book has saved her as a woman for me. She still has some of the hallmarks from the previous take on her I read; she still uses sex for survival of times and there still a hint of the self-serving there. Yet, in this portrayal, there’s so much more. She's a loving mother, a caring friend, compassionate to those less fortunate, and a sharp intelligence when it comes to politics and diplomatic maneuvering. As she navigates the agony of the French Revolution, a marriage on the rocks, and the turbulence of Napoleon’s Empire, one can't help but root for her, despite her flaws. I grew to appreciate her for all her aspects.

Besides Josephine, the item that really shines in this novel is the secondary characters. Where in the previous book secondaries are flat and stereotypical, they shine here. For example, Josephine's first husband Alexander is still a douche in the beginning in the way he treats her. Yet, he's also a passionate believer in change for the masses. He's a loving father and towards the end of his life, a friend to Josephine. They come to an understanding and part on good terms as the tragedy of the revolution enveloped them personally.

I also enjoyed the portrayal of Barras and Napoleon. Both are depicted as human with both virtues and vices. Barras isn't a sexual deviant; he's a caring friend who just enjoys the physical aspects of friendship and loving. Napoleon is still the intense autocratic leader of the French people. Yet, he's also a man who loves passionately, to the point of obsession. Even after his relationship with Josephine is altered irrevocably from betrayals, he still relies on her for diplomatic advice and cares for her deeply.

The whirlwind scene of revolution and bloodshed makes for a terrifying back drop to Josephine’s story. On both sides of the Atlantic, she faces death, destruction, and change. The author holds no punches back as she describes a world on the brink of upheaval. I felt like I was right there in the action along with Josephine, facing each scene of blood and tragedy. Webb also brings to life the glitter of balls and salons, the intellect and emotion of both things coming across sharp and clear.

This book breathed fresh air into Josephine, her fellow characters, and the bloody world of revolution. I found everything vivid in their portrayals, and the characters vibrant with life. I succeeded in my objective when I originally started this book; my understanding of Josephine and her life were revolutionized (pun intended LOL). This book was engrossing where previous was not. If you're looking for a look at Josephine and her life, look no further than this novel. Highly recommended!

2 comments:

  1. I couldn't agree more. Heather Webb is a wonderful writer, and she did a lovely job with this book. My review is here http://drchazan.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-making-of-frence-empress-becoming.html

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  2. Oh, and her next book, Rodin's Lover is even better. My review of that is here http://drchazan.blogspot.com/2014/11/the-cast-and-curse-of-genius.html

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