My latest podcast is up! In it I interview Alexandra Deutsch, the chief curator of the Maryland Historical Society, about A Woman of Two Worlds, her biography of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte (which I reviewed here). Enjoy!
Though not a household name today, in her day Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte was a celebrity thanks largely to her brief marriage to Napoleon Bonaparte's youngest brother Jérôme. Yet Elizabeth was a remarkable woman in her own right: the daughter of a wealthy Maryland merchant, she became a successful businesswoman and socialite. Though her efforts to establish the status of her son, Jérôme Napoleon, within the Bonaparte line ultimately met with failure, she nonetheless enjoyed the status that came from her association with the family and succeeded in ensuring that her son and his children were accepted as members of it.
As the chief curator of the Maryland Historical Society, Alexandra Deutsch is in charge of the collection of artifacts donated by Elizabeth's family to the organization after her death. Her book is not a traditional cradle-to-grave biography of Elizabeth but a detailed study of key aspects of it that uses her possessions to illustrate her interests and how she lived her life. Deutsch uses these items to tell the story of a woman of great ambition and taste who took considerable pride in her association with the Bonapartes and worked to ensure that both she and her son and grandchildren were able to live the lives due to them because of it. Ultimately this required Elizabeth to develop her own acumen as an investor and property owner, and she built up the fortune enjoyed by her son and grandchildren through prudence and good advice. It's a remarkable story that Deutsch tells well, aided throughout the book by a generous number of color photographs of Elizabeth's many possessions that illustrate her points. The result is a work that does credit to Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte and her many achievements, revealing just how much one woman's possessions can tell us about the fascinating life she led.
Another enjoyable read from Michelle Moran. This author consistently writes historical fiction novels I enjoy.
I knew very little about Marie Louise, the second wife of Napoleon. This book paints her as a young princess forced into a marriage to keep the peace and save her family. The story is told from three different point of views - Marie Louise, Pauline (Napoleon's sister) and Paul a mixed race chamberlain who takes care of Pauline and Napoleon. I believe Paul's character is meant to shine light on Napoleon's involvement with slavery and his effect on Haiti. I'm not quite sure it was that effective. It did make me want to read more about what happened there, so I guess that's a win.
Napoleon is portrayed as crazy and terrifying. I've never seen him portrayed any other way so I didn't learn much new about him. The battles take place off stage, the focus of this book are the people surrounding him.
As usual, I did enjoy the chapters at the conclusion explaining what is fact and what Ms. Moran took liberties with. I was surprised at how much was actually fact.
I recommend this book for historical fiction fans. It was a quick, entertaining read.
There's a little bit of everything I love in this line up; historical fiction and romance, slavery, mystery, suspense, war and tea. The early reviews on all of these books have been stellar. I am excited.
Luxe 2: A La La Land Addiction by Ashley Antoinette
A Deadly Affection by Cuyler Overholt
A Tea Planter's Wife by Dinah Jefferies
Darktown by Thomas Mullen
Fates and Traitors by Jennifer Chiaverini
The Orphan Mother by Robert Hicks
The Girl Who Fought Napoleon by Linda Lafferty
If I Had You by Heather Hiestand
The Girl In The Castle by Santa Montefiore
Slavery At Sea: Terror, Sex and Sickness in the Middle Passage by Sowande Mustakeem
Have you heard, read or are excited for any of these September Releases?