Thursday, June 14, 2012
The Second Empress (Michelle Moran)
The Second Empress (August 2012) is a delicious book.
It covers the last 6 years of Napoleon's reign, beginning with the decision to divorce his beloved Josephine (by his own admission the only person or thing he ever really loved) and choose a new bride who can breed for him an heir. He chooses Maria Lucia, the beloved Austrian princess who has been raised to believe that she will become the regent of Austria for her eldest brother (he is mentally incapable) when her father passes. Maria and all of Austria is devastated, but if Napoleon's choice was questioned, her father's kingdom would be forfiet. So she goes and discovers the peculiar and crass court of the Bonapartes.
The sisters Pauline and Caroline Bonaparte, the former who takes a different lover every week and is convinced she and her brother should be together, and the latter who thinks of nothing but her own kingdom.
As always with Michelle's books, all the characters were interesting and engaging, and although there were secondary characters, there weren't so many of them that they over ran the story and bored the reader. The story is told from alternating points of view, Pauline's, Maria-Lucia's, and Paul's, Pauline's perceptive Haitian servant.
For all of strict military campaigning, for all of his masogynistic ways (such as pushing his Empress's face into a dish she was eating because her waistline was expanding), he could not seem to control his family. Their ambition and their selfishness helped to destroy what he had built.
"“From the sublime to the ridiculous there is but one step”
― Napoleon Bonaparte "