Josephine Bonaparte’s Miraculous Life & Words from a Pioneer Woman

Joesphine Bonaparte

Historical fiction doesn’t usually sit on my reading pile, but ‘word of mouth’ great books certainly do and it is due to the latter that I found myself recently devouring not just one but two historical fiction trilogies.

‘These is My Words’ is inspired by author Nancy Turner’s family memoirs of her great grandmother Sarah Prine, an astonishing, wilful and unforgettable pioneering woman who seeks a living in the harsh, untamed lands of the Arizona Territory circa late 1800’s.  She encounters love too briefly and loss too often, wrestles against nature’s wrath and must deal with unpredictable neighbours.  From the oral tales of her great-grandmother Turner has created three volumes which recount the trials and triumphs of Sarah Prine’s memorable life, reminding us of the oft forgotten dreams, challenges and incredible tales of survival of those who came before us.

So ‘Sarah Prine’ is finished but the experience of one courageous woman left a taste for more, so after reading a chance review we (my book buddy and I) decide on the Josephine B trilogy.  Here was a chance to read about a significant period in French history through the eyes of a woman I knew little about – and what an exceptional woman and colourful life to discover.

From humble island roots growing up on a plantation in Martinique, more familiar with village superstition than the courts and noble families of Paris; it is only the forbidden predictions of a Voodoo witchdoctor that hint at the majestic life that awaits Rose Tacher (Josephine Bonaparte).

Written as a collection of journal entries, Sandra Gulland has created a series that sweeps you through the late 1700’s and early 1800’s of Republican and Monarchist France as opinion and favourability flip flop between the two, and it appears as though no one can make up their mind whether indeed it will be a Republic, an Empire or a combination of both.

Each book is as good as, if not better than its precedent and the astonishing amount of research that went into the series and the compassion with which Gulland handles her characters leaves them well etched in your mind.

These is My Words, Sarah’s Quilt, A Star Garden by Nancy E Turner

The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B, Tales of Passion- Tales of Woe, The Last Great Dance on Earth by Sandra Gulland

20 thoughts on “Josephine Bonaparte’s Miraculous Life & Words from a Pioneer Woman

  1. Great…The connection with a Matriach of French History …would have been moving for you. History too has not been on my reading list…however it is a big part of my life…when it comes to Family History, memoir writing and conserving our history (as a volunteer at our local Museum)…it was always apart of my childhool..playing at our local Museum in my childhood town… However, I realised that I am becoming more and more appreciative of this form…genre of literature. Not so long ago, I was surprisingly captivated … drawn into the words of ‘The floating Brothel’ An extraordinary story of the Lady Julian and its cargo of female convicts bound for Botany Bay.[SIAN REES] I felt very patriotic towards these women…who landed on our shores…and helped form Australia to what it is today….especially Sydney. I was moved when I visited …in February of this year. Especially as I met up with women from primary school who flew in from all parts of Australia…there were 7 of us. Walking through the Rocks (hub of Sydney)….was Breathtaking. You may enjoy this read also. Deb


  2. Thanks for the recommendation Debra, ‘The Floating Brothel’ sounds intriguing and fits with something I’ve noticed recently; for all that written history out there, there’s always been an abundance of “his story” it’s wonderful to discover that there are now a lot more well researched, thoughtful, perceptions of “her story” being published. I find it much easier for the events of past times to stay with me when I read about how women lived and coped through those times.

    I’ve just been handed a much loved and battered copy of ‘The Paris Wife’ by Paula McClain, the story of Hadley Richardson who meets and marries Ernest Hemingway, which I am looking forward to reading.


  3. Claire – you’ve got great recommendations on this site. I’ve read one of the “Sarah Prine” books but not the others. I enjoyed it immensely. I’ll have to look for Sarah Gulland’s work.
    I also read your post on “The Lacuna” by Kingsolver. I adore her work and actually pre-ordered the book, which I had never done before, but I was one of those who couldn’t get through it. I had a hard time connecting with the characters and finally gave up. I’m not sure why, and it made me sad as I have devoured everything else she has written, including her books of essays.
    This is a great blog! I’ll be following, especially when I’m looking for a good read.


    • Thanks Amy, the Sarah Prine books are great and so is the Josephine Bonaparte story.
      I think the different perspectives and thus styles of writing are a challenge in ‘The Lacuna’ and perhaps it is because I had heard of the difficulty many had getting into it, that I was determined to persevere, I wasn’t picking it up without knowing there were challenges to the reader.
      Likewise I will be following you at Speaking of Words and Quilts, I like your subtitle – my novel (unpublished) is called ‘A Piece of the Mosaic’ 🙂


  4. You really should be writing book reviews! Thank you for your suggestions.

    Please keep them coming. I read two books a week! (I cheat by listening to one on CD)!


    • Thanks, I love writing them and sharing the experience – thanks for the encouragement, haven’t yet tried audiobooks or even a kindle, but definitely open to it all.


  5. I really enjoyed The Paris Wife–hope you do too!

    Both of these books sounds interesting and will have to make it onto my far-too-long reading list.


    • Yes I did, I have reviewed The Paris Wife on here too. You will love the Joesphine Bonaparte books and interestingly the Isabelle Allende book I review is set during the same era as the Josephine Bonaparte story, although she was born in a different french colony.


  6. History can really get into your blood when the characters come to life.

    Thank you so much for your kind comments on my blog, I will try to repond asap, but thought i would take a look at your blog first.

    Your comments are now even more appreciated!


    • I definitely prefer my history lessons through a well researched novel with a dose of compassion in representing the characters. I like your comment and what immediately came to mind was the thing that was missing for me in ‘The Paris Wife’ because the character comes to life only to be dispensed with like one of Henry’s wives when she divorces the larger than life husband – none of that with Josephine Bonaparte!


  7. I would never have thought to pick up either of these, but definitely putting the Josephine Bonaparte trilogy on my to-read list – have been getting into novelistic portraits of historical figures recently, and just the titles of this one is enough to tempt me! Thanks for the recommendation!


    • All three of them are excellent, I was just at our little English library today and two people were asking after these books and a third visitor said she had read them when we first purchased them for the library, they don’t disappoint. Today I’m starting on ‘The Maid and the Queen’ a non-fiction book about Joan of Arc – another inspiring woman in history.


  8. Pingback: Dinah, her Mothers and a woman named Ruth « Word by Word

    • Do add them, both trilogies were excellent and left us a little bereft that there wasn’t another to follow. I’m reading Hilary Mantel at the moment, but it’s just not the same, these women really pull you into their stories and make you experience it – it helps that they are writing about women I guess.


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