FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 2010
By John Cheeran
23 years later, I re-read Desiree, the historical novel by Annemarie Selinko. Desiree – Citizeness Bernadine Eugenie D
esiree Clary-, daughter of a Marseille silk merchant, was the first love of emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.
Regarded as the most fascinating historical novel since Gone With the
Wind, Desiree is an engaging and powerful read but, I guess, largely remains faithful to historical facts.
Emperor Napoleon and his rival marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte played huge roles in the making of European history in the 18th and 19th century. But this spunky and loyal girl played an equally important role in the lives of these two men and, eventually, became the queen of Sweden.
Everyone who knows about Napoleon also knows about queen Josephine. But not many know about Desiree, who as a 14-year-old, emptied her piggybank and gave a bankrupt, 24-year-old general Napoleon 98 francs to make his journey to Paris to plead his cause with army top brass. Before the world bet on Napoleon, Desiree had the first pick.
Successful men are opportunists and Napoleon did not shy when opportunities beckoned him in Paris. He married Josephine to make his forays in the Parisian labyrinth and further his grand strategy.
Annemarie Selinko writes the novel as a diary kept by Desiree. Its tone is intimate and direct. The simple, unaffected and short sentences convey the romance and breathlessness of, first the French revolution and then that of vaulting ambition of generals. In Desiree, Selinko gets quite closer to a woman’s heart, if such a thing is ever possible.
The events that Desiree is privileged to witness are highly political but this is not a political novel. It’s a novel about trust, love and honour and how we react when confronted by events bigger than ourselves. It’s a must-read for you.
POSTED BY JOHNCHEERAN AT 6:39 PM