Posted March 24, 2011 by Annika , Prague, Czech Republic
I adore this book!
Désirée Clarys' real character was quite different (I was actually pretty dissapointed when I googled her to find out something about her real live) but this is a story about a strong woman during The French Revolution and the reign of Napoleon.
We find out about Eugénie Bernardine Désirée Clary live by her diary entries, from her live as the daugther of a wealthy tradesmen to her encounters with the young Napoleon, later with the emporer Napoleon until fate makes her queen of Sveden (founding the current royal family of Sveden).
It's a very charming and witty book during which you'll learn a lot about live and history during French Revolution and Napoleons reign. You'll find Désirée and her down to earth character between all the intrigues and political games during this time period into which she is unwillingly thrown admirable.
2 .Review from
Posted November 28, 2010 by Alana , The United States
When it comes to Napoleon Bonaparte's love life, his tempestuous relationship with Josephine is almost always at the forefront. But did you know that before Napoleon met and fell in love with Josephine, he was engaged? Desiree Clary started out life as a silk merchant's daughter, but despite all of their differences, her life remained entertwined with Napoleon's - she was with him at his coronation and she was with him at his final abdication following Waterloo.
One of the aspects of this novel that struck me the most is how the writing voice changes. At the beginning of the novel, Desiree sounds very young. She sees things remarkably clearly - not for her the imposed complications of society's strictures. She simply wants to get things done. Headstrong and emotional, it is easy to see how she falls utterly for the brilliant charismatic young general despite his almost stand-offish aloofness. But as Desiree grows beyond her heartache, the writing style subtly matures along with her. It was gradually done and not overtly noticeable as I was reading until I had put the book down for a bit and returned to it.
I learned a great deal about Napoleon as well as about the Swedish royal family from this novel. I had never heard much at all about Sweden in the conflict, and I was utterly fascinated by the revelation that a French citizen was called upon to succeed as the Swedish heir to the throne. And I certainly sympathized with Desiree and the conflicting loyalties and expectations that she faces. What a very full life she led! But however interesting her life was, I did find that the novel was slow in parts - sometimes it seemed the character's limitations got in the way of the story. Desiree was not terribly interested in politics for much of the novel, and especially towards the end when political intrigue and strategy drive the story forward, it can be frustrating not to be shown what is going on because of Desiree's limited focus.
I found the balance between the human elements of love, generosity and jealousy and the more political historical side a bit off at times, but nonetheless, I enjoyed Selinko's story about Napoleon's first love a great deal. It's certainly something very different from the usual historical fare.
3 .Review from
Posted November 25, 2010 by Gaby , Brooklyn, NY
I expected Desiree to be another wonderful escape into historical fiction with a complicated plot, historical characters, much romance and drama and found it to be even better than I'd expected. Selinko does introduce Desiree to Bethoven, the leaders of the French Revolution, the Jacobines, Robispeare, Talleyrand. Desiree approaches them as ordinary people, regular citizens, albeit more powerful than most. Reading Desiree's impressions of them, we see these characters from the point of view of an ordinary woman, one who isn't interested in power but is painfully aware of what effects that powerful people have on the lives of everyone around them.
The relationship between Desiree and Napoleon is based on far more than their early romance. Through Napoleon's special relationship with Desiree, we imagine how he might have been with a loyal friend that knew him when he had no money, few contacts, but great confidence and ambition. In the early years, Desiree and her prosperous middleclass family helped the Bonapartes. When Desiree's sister Julie married Napoleon's brother, her dowry and their business provided the Bonapartes with resources that helped Bonaparte rise in politics and the army. I particularly enjoyed the way that Selinko captured the unique and powerful link that we share with old friends and the way that she showed this in the relationship between Desiree and Napoleon.
Though Napoleon and Desiree were secretly engaged, this was an early love. Napoleon was subsequent married to Josephine and Desiree married Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, another general in the French army. Bernadotte was loyal to the Republic and faced considerable trials because of his refusal to bow to Napoleon's wishes. His independence, integrity and superb tactical skills result in unexpected recognition and responsibility for Bernadotte. But his professional successes take a toll Desiree. Desiree, Jean Baptiste and their son make sacrifices for the countries that they love and their very humanity makes this story even more remarkable and moving.
I thoroughly enjoyed Désirée: The Bestselling Story of Napoleon's First Love and would recommend it to anyone fond of historical fiction or the Napoleonic period or looking for an engaging and moving read.
There are so many other books out there about Napoleon and Josephine that when I heard about Desiree, his first love, I had to read about his first love. Selinko does a wonderful job in making her characters feel real and the readers to feel as if they are amongst them. You’ll read about love, betrayal, war, and duty. You’ll smile and you’ll cry as you read the pages of this diary like format “written” by Desiree. She portrays Desiree as a courageous and strong girl turned Queen in her novel. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Desiree and happy to have read it first by Selinko.
5 .Review from
Posted October 13, 2010 by iubookgirl , Indianapolis, IN
Originally published in 1951, Annemarie Selinko's epic story of love, loss and war withstands the test of time. Through the eyes of Bernardine Eugénie Désirée Clary, the reader is transported through history from the French Revolution's Reign of Terror to the aftermath of Napoleon's rule. Désirée's fictitious diary is heartfelt and charts her course from a humble citizeness of the French Republic to the greatest heights.
I'm not sure my words can do this book justice. Désirée's story brought me to tears on several occasions with its raw emotion. She endures profound heartbreak both personally and as an observer of her country's pain yet is never defeated. You will root for Désirée and be completely captivated by her story. We readers are indebted to Sourcebooks for bringing this book back into print. Désirée is a beautiful and triumphant piece of historical fiction. I urge you to read it whether you are a fan of this genre or not.
6 .Review from
Posted October 04, 2010 by Blodeuedd , Finland
This book was just enchanting, I was a little worried at first since it was published in the 50's but this latest version does not differ from books today. It was just like a historical novel should be like.
I know quite a lot about Désirée's later years, thanks to my love of history, and Swedish tv once had this great miniseries about all the Bernadotte queens.
Desiree Clary was the daughter of a Silk Merchant from Marseille, and when she was 14 she met the poverished Napoleon Bonaparte. Her sister married his brother, and that was sure a catch since these two girls had a great dowry. Napoleon asked Desiree to marry him and that would take place when she turned 16. But sadly before that he went to Paris where he meet the enigmatic and beautiful, and older, Josephine. Desiree would later meet Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte whom she would marry. By then totally mixed up in the Bonaparte family and Napoleon's need for more. Later the Swedish asked Bernadotte to become crown prince of Sweden. And so this simple merchant daughter from France become a real queen.
I do not need to say that this book was filled with history. Napoleon's struggle to the top, him becoming emperor and making all his siblings kings and queens. The years of wars, with the German states, Russia, and so on. And in the middle of all this stood Desiree. First as a relative to the family and then as a wife to one of the most known Generals in France, all of Europe. It was fascinating to see history unfold around her as she wrote in her diary and telling how it all was. I always did wonder. Napoleon and her, did they really never have an affair? This book makes it as she was deeply in love with her husband, and never strayed on her, and him only taking a mistress later on cos it was expected. But then I googled and read there was one maybe, and another man whose mistress she seems to have been. I am glad that was left out, because doing that this whole book is one romantic fantasy.
Desiree herself, well, she never gave Sweden a chance. Sure it's colder, and she was not a princess, but I felt she should have stayed cos of her son. Instead she left for France.
Other than the romance, there is the history, wars and political intrigues. This book never has a dull moment. It was very hard to put down in the end, even if it was really long. The author has of course taken artistic freedom but she stays true to the big picture.
One other thing, I have sure not read a book in a long while that mentions Finland so much, of course I enjoy that. The Swedes really wanted us back and hoped Bernadotte could go to war and conquer Finland back, alas no.
Final thoughts: A story about a fascinating woman who lived in an interesting period of time.
7 .Review from
Posted September 15, 2010 by Margaret , Seabeck, WA
Désirée is one of those old family favorites which I've read many times and keep coming back to like an old friend.
It's the sweeping story of Désirée Clary, the daughter of a Marseilles silk merchant, from her early love for and engagement to Napoleon to her later marriage to French Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, who later became king of Sweden (and Désirée queen). Désirée herself is one of its chief charms; as the book is in the form of an ongoing journal, everything is filtered through her sparkling, direct, and charming personality.
Historically, I find it largely convincing (though I'd still like to read a good biography of Bernadotte to see if her picture of him is accurate), particularly in the portrayal of Napoleon, who can easily turn into a caricature of himself if handled wrongly; Selinko makes him entirely believable, as an egotistical tyrant, but also as a human being. Although Désirée marries Bernadotte, it's her scenes with Napoleon which are frequently the most arresting and emotional.
If you've read Désirée and are interested in a historical diarist of that time, I'd highly recommend Memoirs Of The Duchess D'Abrantes, Madame Junot V7.
8 .Review from
Posted September 15, 2010 by Desiree , San Francisco, CA
My mother was reading this book when she was pregnant with me. When I turned 15, she gave me the original copy she had saved. I've read this book 3 times already. It is my absolute favorite. Desiree was the daughter of a merchant in France before Napoleon Bonaparte rose to power. The book explores Desiree's life and trials and how she falls in love with Napoleon. Love is not enough to keep these two together. As Napoleon emerges into a powerful leader, he must follow his path in order to succeed, and true love is sacrificed in order for him to follow his calling. Napoleon's rise and fall are explored in the book. Desiree later becomes Queen of Sweden but always keeps a fond place in her heart for her one true love. The book really took me back to that period and it is beautifully written by Selinko.
9 .Review from
Posted September 10, 2010 by Kathleen , Rhinelander, WI
Desiree by AnneMarie Selinko is a re-released novel from Sourcebooks about Bernardine Eugénie Désirée Clary, a Frenchwoman who was engaged to Napoleon Bonaparte. Desiree was the daughter of a silk merchant who became Queen of Sweden and Norway. The story is told by Desiree and follows the lives of the Clary and Bonaparte familys. It depicts Napoleon's rise and ultimate fall as Emperor of France.
After Napoleon breaks off the engagement to marry Josephine de Beauharnais. Desiree marries Jean Baptiste Bernadotte and they have one child, Oscar. Desiree had not desire to be involved in politics, but due to her relationship with Bonaparte, she ended up being the go between and messenger between her husband and Napoleon. As her husband rises up the ranks, she is perfectly happy to have a simple life. That all changes when her husband is adopted by the King of Sweden as the king has no heirs. In 1810 Desiree goes to the Swedish court but feels that she is not treated well and returns to Paris. In 1818 her husband becomes King of Sweden but Desiree does not go to Sweden until 1823, when she goes with her daughter-in-law and at her own request is crowned Queen in 1829. I had not read a lot about Napoleon and the Napoleonic Wars and I did enjoy this book. This is a story based on the history of France in the 1800's. A great story about a very courageous woman of her time.
10 .Review from
Posted September 08, 2010 by Amy , Alpharetta, GA
In his memoirs, dictated while he was in exile on the island of St. Helena, Napoleon named his first love as Desiree Clary, a silk merchant’s daughter from Marseilles. In the breathtaking novel simply titled Desiree, author Annemarie Selinko chronicles the life of the woman who was Napoleon’s fiancee, a woman who rose from being a commoner to becoming a wife of a General to Queen of Sweden and Norway.
As a little girl Desiree received a diary from her beloved father and through it she narrates her story. Desiree first meets Napoleon through his brother Joseph, who will later become her brother-in-law, and takes a fancy to the young and determined General. Even though their relationship would die young and he would break her heart, Napoleon and Desiree would remain in each other’s lives until his quest for world domination ended in his exile to St. Helena.
Desiree is a mesmerizing look at the rise and fall of Napoleon told from the woman who first held his heart and knew him like no other. It is touching and beautifully written and no historical fiction readers’ library is complete without this exceptional, un-put-down-able novel!