Tuesday, June 19, 2012

BROKEN TEEPEE Review: Desiree by Annemarie Selinko


From the Publisher's Website:

To be young, in France, and in love: fourteen year old Desiree can’t believe her good fortune. Her fiance, a dashing and ambitious Napoleon Bonaparte, is poised for battlefield success, and no longer will she be just a French merchant’s daughter. She could not have known the twisting path her role in history would take, nearly breaking her vibrant heart but sweeping her to a life rich in passion and desire.

A love story, but so much more, Désirée explores the landscape of a young heart torn in two, giving readers a compelling true story of an ordinary girl whose unlikely brush with history leads to a throne no one would have expected.

An epic bestseller that has earned both critical acclaim and mass adoration, Désirée is at once a novel of the rise and fall of empires, the blush and fade of love, and the heart and soul of a woman.

About the Author: (from Wikipedia)

Annemarie Selinko (September 1, 1914 - July 28, 1986) was an Austrian novelist who wrote a number of best-selling books in German from the 1930s through the 1950s. Although she had been based in Germany, in 1939 at the start of World War II she took refuge in Denmark with her Danish husband, but then in 1943, they again became refugees, this time to Sweden

Many of her novels have been adapted into movies and all have been translated into numerous languages. Her last work Désirée(1951) was about Désirée Clary, one of Napoleon's lovers and, later, a queen of Sweden. It has been translated into 25 languages and in 1956 was turned into a movie with Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons. It is dedicated to her sister Liselotte, who was murdered by the Nazis.

My Opinion:

Sourcebooks is re-releasing this delightful novel for a new generation of readers. I actually read this book a long, long time ago. Before I was married if one can imagine such a thing - I was married in 1982 so I am talking ages ago! I remembered it as an excellent book and one I would not mind reading again.  I was right.

I have always loved historical fiction and have tended to read books full of rich, personal histories based on real people. Desiree Clary was a young silk merchant's daughter when she met a very young Napoleon Bonaparte. She actually met his brother Joseph first, brought him home in the hopes he would fall in love with her sister - which in fact he did. They ended up marrying but that is another story.

Napoleon and Desiree have a courtship and he proposes to the 14 year old girl leaving her in Marseilles as he goes to Paris. Of course while in Paris Napoleon meets Josephine and the rest is history.  But Desiree's story is still to be told.

And it is a remarkable story.  The book is written as Desiree's diary and this is my one complaint. The voice does not change as Desiree ages. In fact the 14 year old writes more like the Queen of Sweden.  But it is a small complaint for so rich a tale.  Napoleon feels guilty over jilting Desiree and sends her a long line of possible suitors; suitors who feel nothing for Desiree but feel compelled to propose to her because Napoleon told them too.

She finally puts her foot down and finds herself a General to protect her. But the marriage was more one of convenience than love but it did bring her financial independence and ultimately she ended up Queen of Sweden.

The book is fascinating, well written and brings to life a woman from history about which I knew nothing. These are the kinds of books I truly adore.

No comments:

Post a Comment