Napolean and Josephine: The Improbable Marriage

Evangeline Bruce, Author Scribner Book Company $32 (555p) ISBN 978-0-02-517810-6
This vibrant dual biography uses the marriage of Napoleon and Josephine ``as the frame through which to view a time of cataclysmic change.'' The book's wealth of detail about the relationship of the ever-intriguing couple offers a rich panorama of the exhilarating and violent time on which they left their mark. The author, who is the widow of David Bruce, onetime U.S. ambassador to France, draws on a multitude of eyewitness accounts and other sources to present a full-bodied Napoleon--his contempt for the masses (``morality is for the upper classes, the gallows for the rabble''), his ardor for the emotionally shallow Josephine and the opportunism that led him to divorce her (``I like only those people who are useful to me--but only as long as they are useful''), as well as his military victories and defeats. Josephine is no less distinctive, with her charm, bad teeth, seductiveness, many affairs and extravagances and her reluctant but growing love for Napoleon. Vivid portraits abound, including those of Madame de Stael, Talleyrand and Alexander I of Russia; and Paris comes alive with its noises, smells, fashions and salons. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/27/1995
Release date: 03/01/1995
Genre: Nonfiction
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