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Topic: 2009 H/F - Bonus Goal

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Subject: 2009 H/F - Bonus Goal
Date Posted: 1/13/2009 8:38 AM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
Posts: 3,823
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BONUS GOAL: Find a book that is 1,000 or more pages and read, read, and read some more....



Last Edited on: 1/13/09 8:50 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Subject: Josephine B Trilogy
Date Posted: 2/9/2009 1:24 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,393
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For my bonus goal I selected the Josephine B. trilogy by Sandra Gulland. The three books combined totaled over 1100 pages and I read them back to back - which, not only being true to the idea of the bonus challenge, is also the way I like to read a trilogy or series.

I strongly recommend that these books be read in order and back-to-back. Ms. Gulland does not waste much ink or the reader's time in "catching" up from one book to the other (a fact that I really appreciate!). To get full enjoyment and understanding from these books, they should be read as a whole.

The first book The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. brings our young heroine from her home on Martinique to France where she is married to Alexandre Beauharnais - the father of her two children. This book covers the Revolution, the Reign of Terror and the first stumbling blocks of a country trying to govern itself without its monarchy. The book concludes with Joesphine's marriage to Napoleon.

The second book is Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe. This book takes us through the first years of Josephine & Napoleon's marriage and concludes with the true end to the Revolution - as marked by Napoleon's successful coup against the sitting Directors and his appointment as First Consul of France.

And, lastly, The Last Great Dance on Earth, Napoleon becomes Emperor and crowns Josephine as Empress. We get a bird's-eye view of the expansive, expensive and glittering court that the Emperor establishes. We are also privy to the unbelievable greed, avarice and jealousy of those closest to Napoleon - specifically, his own family. The book concludes as only history will allow - Napoleon's great defeat and subsequent exile and with Josephine's death.

Overall rating for the trilogy is a solid 5/5. When thinking about a rating and thinking about all the things I liked about these books, there was just no reason to give it anything less! The books appear to be meticulously researched; I believe Ms. Gulland's character development, personalities, conclusions, etc. are all based on fact and rest on solid foundations. The books also contain bonus material (another real plus for me); specifically, a genealogy chart in each book, bibliography, cast of characters and reader's guide. 

Throughout the books, we get a solid picture of the strengths and weaknesses of Napoleon Bonaparte and also of the great love between him and Josephine and the special connection between them. We learn of the love Josephine had for her children and her grandchildren. We come to have a better understanding of intrigue and conspiracies both within Paris and also on the European stage during the late 1700's and early 1800's.

These books are fast reads! They scoop you up and soar you away to Josephine's world. I read the last book in just a couple of days - and although I knew I was going to be sad to finish, I could not stop myself from reading; so great was my interest. In the Acknowledgements at the end of the 3rd book, Sandra Gulland writes ... for this hasn't been an easy book to finish. It ends a decade of daily interaction with Josephine and her family, closes a curtain on a world that has become home to me. I think this sums it up quite nicely - for the reader also. Throughout the books, I was intimately caught up in Josephine's life and was reluctant to pull myself back into my world to do such mundane things as go to work, or fix dinner, etc., etc. 

And "intimate" is exactly the correct word. Ms. Gulland's clever and very well-done technique of telling the story through Josephine's diary entries is brilliant! We get her personal comments, feelings, fears, etc. and keep up with what's happening from the mundane to the very important. The books also contain letters written to Josephine and in this way, other characters get to speak in first person. The best, in my opinion, even better than Napoleon's letters to Josephine, are the letters from her son Eugene. We are also privy to conversations that Josephine has recorded in her journals and this is another way in which characters speak and the story is advanced.

I was actually a bit leery of this approach; was afraid reading diary entries would be too dry and lifeless ... and how wrong I was!! If this is also a concern of yours, put it aside! Au contraire, mes amis, the books are sensitive, full of life and color, and are very well-written.

And, if your reluctance to pick up these books is because they are about the French Revolution - "yuck! been there, done that with Tale of Two Cities in high school" or about Josephine - "oh, yeah, I remember her - wasn't she Napoleon's older, dried up wife who couldn't have children?" or about Napoleon - "are you kidding me? That power-hungry, despot who ended up a failure at Waterloo?" then I implore you to take another look at this trilogy.

The books are about the French Revolution, they are about Josephine, they are about Napoleon ... but they are also so much more than that. They are about a fascinating and critical period of French & European history and are well worth the time and effort to read them! Reading them and putting them into historical context, I wonder what France would have become without Napoleon; and what Napoleon would have been (or not been) without Josephine.

Kelly

Date Posted: 2/9/2009 1:42 PM ET
Member Since: 6/5/2007
Posts: 2,507
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I actually just discovered that the book I chose for this is about 50 pages too short.

 

Date Posted: 2/10/2009 10:52 AM ET
Member Since: 7/21/2008
Posts: 437
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Thanks for this review, Kelly!  I have the trilogy on my shelf and have been passing it over, one of the reasons being that I was worried I would not be able to get in the format.  I'll have to make sure I squeeze it in at some point.

Date Posted: 2/10/2009 12:05 PM ET
Member Since: 8/12/2005
Posts: 809
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Kelly, you've really made me want to read about Josephine!

Date Posted: 2/10/2009 2:37 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,393
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Kelly, you've really made me want to read about Josephine!

She was a wonderfully complex woman who lived several lifetimes during her own. From wondering how she was going to feed her children to the unbelievable opulence of Napoleon's court; from being one Robespierre's prisoners and on the short list for the guillotine to crossing the Alps with Napoleon - there's not much she didn't see and do.

As I said in an earlier post, I knew very little about Josephine, so I had no pre-conceived ideas about her or her life ... which I think was a plus for me. Apparently, history has not treated her very kindly and in one of her Author's Notes, Sandra Gulland writes that she hopes than in time the record can be set straight about this remarkable woman who lived through (to paraphrase Dickens) the best of times and the worst of times.

Kelly

 

Date Posted: 2/10/2009 9:30 PM ET
Member Since: 8/30/2007
Posts: 3,237
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Awesome review, Kelly! :-)

Date Posted: 2/11/2009 9:10 AM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
Posts: 3,823
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Great review, Kelly! You should add it to the review section of the books so we can all give you a thumbs up. ;-)

Like you, I was a bit leery of the books when I saw they were written in a diary format, but it's so well done that I forgot I was even reading in a diary form.

Date Posted: 2/11/2009 10:53 AM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,393
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Thanks, Valli ... and good idea ... I'm off to add it to the review section right now.

Kelly

Date Posted: 2/11/2009 6:36 PM ET
Member Since: 6/5/2007
Posts: 2,507
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Ok, Miss Valli - your input is needed. What happens if our book is shy of the 1,000 mark? Do I scrap it (not that I've started yet) or is there some wiggle room?

Date Posted: 2/16/2009 9:32 PM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
Posts: 1,755
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Kelly - Your post about the Josephine B trilogy enabled me to order through PBS the second two books in the series. I've had the first one sitting on my bookshelf for a few months now.  I figured I'd do as you suggest and read them back to back. Not sure that I'll use it for my bonus goal, but maybe I will.  My SIL is borrowing me Sacajawea to take on my trip this week, and if that's over 1000 pages I'll use that. I figured one long book in a relatively lightweight paperback would be the best choice for travel. Of course, I'll also have to lug my library copy of Agincourt, because there's no way I'll finish it by the time I leave on Thursday. 

Date Posted: 2/17/2009 8:49 AM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,393
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Ahhh, Shelley ... very good!! I hope you enjoy the trilogy ... and I'm convinced they need to be read one right after the other for continuity ... not to mention that you will probably want to carry on with the story after one book is finished.

I had to chuckle about your traveling plans - it is almost as big a decision for me to decide what book(s) to take as what clothes to pack when preparing for a trip. Fortunately, most of my trips are within driving distance, so it's not a big factor that I always "overpack" my reading material!

Some women may worry about leaving their make-up behind, or ruining their only pair of hose - my biggest fear is running out of reading material!

 

Date Posted: 2/17/2009 11:21 AM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
Posts: 1,755
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LOL!  I KNOW!!!  Deciding what to read on a trip is almost as hard as deciding what to wear!  I hate that I have to bring Agincourt.  For one, it's a library copy, so I'd be really mad if I lost it.  Second, it's a bigger, hardcover, and it'll make my purse heavy!  LOL!  Oh, well. I can't bear the thought of stopping it for 4 days, reading something else and then coming back to it.  LOL!  I'd rather just finish it!  I'd hate to run out of reading material too.  Sure you can find books in airports, but usually only best seller stuff that I'm not interested in. 

Date Posted: 2/17/2009 8:19 PM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
Posts: 2,456
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What do you think of Agincourt so far, Shelley?  Sounds like we are both getting out of Minnesota just in time!

Date Posted: 2/17/2009 10:07 PM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
Posts: 1,755
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Unfortunately, Cheryl, I haven't gotten very far into Agincourt. Hoping to finish it on my trip.  Where are you going?  I'm just going to CA for my brother's wedding.  Probably won't be too exciting (unlike a nice tropical vacation), but at least I should get some reading in!

Date Posted: 2/18/2009 9:23 AM ET
Member Since: 7/21/2008
Posts: 437
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Shelley - I can sympathize!  Whenever I travel for work (which is alot), I always agonize over which books to bring.  Especially since my trips are to Asia, I don't want to be stuck on a 25 hour journey with books I don't like!!  I leave for Taiwan next Monday, and I'll actually be traveling for 3 days but only in the country for 2!!  So reading material is critical. 

Speaking of trips, this is totally off topic, but I'm so excited about it that I want to share......yesterday I booked a trip to Italy for May.  My grandparents are from Italy so this is my DREAM vacation!  We're going to be in Rome, Florence, and the Tuscany countryside, so I'm now reconsidering my reading material for the next couple of months to focus on those places.

Date Posted: 2/18/2009 11:07 AM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
Posts: 2,456
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My husband and I are headed to Florida (gulf side) near Sarasota on Anna Maria Island.  We are renting a beach house from a relative that I have stayed in many times.  It's a lovely area and not too overbuilt with condos and such.

 

Michelle- what a marvelous sounding trip!  So jealous!!

 



Last Edited on: 2/18/09 11:08 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 2/18/2009 3:48 PM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
Posts: 1,755
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I'm off on my trip tomorrow, so will be out of touch.  If anything exciting happens, someone PM me!  LOL!  See you all next week!

Date Posted: 3/10/2009 2:05 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,393
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For my 1000-page bonus challenge, I read the Warlord trilogy about the King Arthur legends, by Bernard Cornwell: The Winter King. Enemy of God, and Excalibur.  These novels are typical of other Cornwell tales of adventure, war, romance, historic battles, etc. - well written, believable, exciting, humorous in spots, well-developed characters.  I thoroughly enjoyed all three books; I feel like my knowledge of Arthurian legend has been enhanced; I now have a bit of understanding re. some of the pagan beliefs of the Druids.  I don't normally like books that are not believable and realistic, I don't read fantasy, but the superstitions, the illusions, the curses of the Druids were presented in such a way as to weave themselves into the fabric of the story so it was all credible and totally entertaining.  I loved this trilogy (1264 pages in the three books) - read back to back, the books go quickly. I read the trilogy within a week.  A strong 5-star recommendation.  

Linda



Last Edited on: 3/10/09 2:05 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Kat (polbio) -
Date Posted: 6/22/2009 1:52 PM ET
Member Since: 10/10/2008
Posts: 3,067
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I read World Without End by Ken Follett. I was very disapointed in the book. Everyone talked highly of it, but I didnt enjoy it all that much. It had interesting parts but the majority of it wasnt entertaining to me. I am a historian and love history. The lives of the towns people and even their names were very historically acurate, which I liked. But the storylines just didnt hold my interest. My DH calls me a prude, but I just dont care for books with graphic sex. The constant crude sexual terms turned me off to the book. Plus, I lost interest in most of the story about half way thru because the choices made and consequences were all very predictable. I still kept reading because I wanted to know what would wind up happening with everyone, but my heart wasnt in it.

Date Posted: 6/22/2009 9:57 PM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
Posts: 1,755
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Linda - Aaack!  Tempting me again with BC?!?!?  I have all three of those books begging for me to read them. I had thought of reading them in succession like you did for this challenge, but then I got intrigued by the faves about The Far Pavilions, so I got that from the library and discovered it was over 1000 pages, so I'm using that for this challenge.  However, BC has been crying out to me to read him again, so I may read either the trilogy or at least Stonehenge when I'm done with The Far Pavilions

Kat - Sorry you didn't like World Without End.  It's on my wish list.  Did you read Pillars of the Earth?  If so, did you like that one?  Just wondering if you liked one but not the other. I liked Pillars, but it got a bit long for me and it dragged in parts.  Wondering if I'll like World Without End or if it'll be much the same.  Anyone else here read both books and can give a comparison? 



Last Edited on: 6/22/09 9:59 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Kat (polbio) -
Date Posted: 6/24/2009 9:37 AM ET
Member Since: 10/10/2008
Posts: 3,067
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Shelley, I havent read Pillars yet, and am not going to now. I have both books if you want one or both. I have WWE in hardback and Pillars in MMPB.  PM me if you or anyone for that matter would like them. Otherwise I am going to post them.

Date Posted: 6/24/2009 11:01 AM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
Posts: 2,456
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Shelley I had read both books and I also liked Pillars much more than the sequel.  I just didn't find the characters and the plots lines in WWE as enthralling as the first book, but I also felt it was worth reading.  It certainly isn't one that I would ever re-read though like I did Pillars.

Date Posted: 7/15/2009 12:26 PM ET
Member Since: 3/11/2008
Posts: 924
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I finished A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon a couple of days ago. I've had it here for at least 6 months, just waiting for a good time to sit down and read it. I was worried that it would be too long, and that I would lose interest, but it kept me reading all the way through. There were even several twists to the story that I wasn't expecting. It was a good read. Now I'm looking forward to the new Outlander book coming out soon! :)



Last Edited on: 7/15/09 12:26 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Subject: Challenge Complete!
Date Posted: 7/28/2009 9:36 AM ET
Member Since: 4/23/2008
Posts: 1,755
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I finished The Far Pavilons by M.M. Kaye Saturday, thus fulfilling this challenge.  Yes, obviously a really looooooong book, but despite it's length, I didn't find it to drag anywhere other than maybe at the very end when there were pages and pages and pages and pages of writing on the battle scene in Kabul.  I'm not a fan of detailed blow-by-blows of battles, but I survived (and I'll cop to a bit of skimming).  Other than that, I really loved this book.  It's quite an epic, although in reality it only covers what?  Like 25 or so years of one man's life?  But, what an interesting life!  I loved the story, I loved the characters, and I loved that it was set primarily in India, a country I'm totally fascinated with.  A very good read and worth every hour I spent reading it! 

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