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Ambition and Desire: The Dangerous Life of Josephine Bonaparte
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From CNN’s official royal historian, a highly praised young author with a doctorate from Oxford University, comes the extraordinary rags-to-riches story of the woman who conquered Napoleon’s heart—and with it, an empire.   Their love was legendary, their ambition flagrant and unashamed. Napoleon Bonaparte and his wife, Josephine, came to power during one of the most turbulent periods in the history of France. The story of the Corsican soldier’s incredible rise has been well documented. Now, in this spellbinding, luminous account, Kate Williams draws back the curtain on the woman who beguiled him: her humble origins, her exorbitant appetites, and the tragic turn of events that led to her undoing.   Born Marie-Josèphe-Rose de Tascher de La Pagerie on the Caribbean island of Martinique, the woman Napoleon would later call Josephine was the ultimate survivor. She endured a loveless marriage to a French aristocrat—executed during the Reign of Terror—then barely escaped the guillotine blade herself. Her near-death experience only fueled Josephine’s ambition and heightened her  determination to find a man who could finance and sustain her. Though no classic beauty, she quickly developed a reputation as one of the most desirable women on the continent.   In 1795, she met Napoleon. The attraction was mutual, immediate, and intense. Theirs was an often-tumultuous union, roiled by their pursuit of other lovers but intensely focused on power and success. Josephine was Napoleon’s perfect consort and the object of national fascination. Together they conquered Europe. Their extravagance was unprecedented, even by the standards of Versailles. But she could not produce an heir. Sexual obsession brought them together, but cold biological truth tore them apart.   Gripping in its immediacy, captivating in its detail, Ambition and Desire is a true tale of desire, heartbreak, and revolutionary turmoil, engagingly written by one of England’s most praised young historians. Kate Williams’s searing portrait of this alluring and complex woman will finally elevate Josephine Bonaparte to the historical prominence she deserves.Praise for Ambition and Desire  “Not just a scholarly work, but a page-turner . . . Williams is no stranger to creating works on strong and influential women, and, as in those works, here she does an admirable job of demystifying Josephine. . . . This engrossing and accessible account is for all readers who enjoy historical biography.”Library Journal   “[A] riveting account . . . Williams perfectly illustrates all that was bizarre and maddening about French life during the reign of Josephine and Napoleon Bonaparte.”Publishers Weekly   “Intelligent and entertaining.”Kirkus Reviews   “An in-depth portrait of the substantive woman behind the throne.”Booklist“Reading [Ambition and Desire] is like watching Silk Stockings, the 1957 Hollywood masterpiece with Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse. The book flows and jumps, taking the reader by the hand through tormented times in French history without ever letting you go or losing itself in the intricacies of French politics.”—The Times   “A sparkling account of this most fallible and endearing of women.”Daily Mail   “A whirlwind tour of French...
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Street Date:
11/04/2014
Language:
English
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9780345522856
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APA Citation (style guide)

Kate Williams. (2014). Ambition and Desire: The Dangerous Life of Josephine Bonaparte. Random House Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Kate Williams. 2014. Ambition and Desire: The Dangerous Life of Josephine Bonaparte. Random House Publishing Group.

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Kate Williams, Ambition and Desire: The Dangerous Life of Josephine Bonaparte. Random House Publishing Group, 2014.

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Kate Williams. Ambition and Desire: The Dangerous Life of Josephine Bonaparte. Random House Publishing Group, 2014. Web.

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      • bioText: Kate Williams fell in love with the eighteenth century while studying for her B.A. at Oxford University, and went on to earn an M.A. from the University of London and a D.Phil. in history from Oxford University. A lecturer and TV consultant in addition to being CNN's royal historian, she has hosted several British television historical documentaries and appears regularly on both American and British networks. Williams is the author of two previous biographies, England's Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton and Becoming Queen Victoria: The Tragic Death of Princess Charlotte and the Unexpected Rise of Britain's Greatest Monarch, as well as a novel, The Pleasures of Men. Her articles and essays have been published in a wide range of books and journals. Kate Williams lives in London.
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Ambition and Desire
fullDescription
From CNN’s official royal historian, a highly praised young author with a doctorate from Oxford University, comes the extraordinary rags-to-riches story of the woman who conquered Napoleon’s heart—and with it, an empire.
 
Their love was legendary, their ambition flagrant and unashamed. Napoleon Bonaparte and his wife, Josephine, came to power during one of the most turbulent periods in the history of France. The story of the Corsican soldier’s incredible rise has been well documented. Now, in this spellbinding, luminous account, Kate Williams draws back the curtain on the woman who beguiled him: her humble origins, her exorbitant appetites, and the tragic turn of events that led to her undoing.
 
Born Marie-Josèphe-Rose de Tascher de La Pagerie on the Caribbean island of Martinique, the woman Napoleon would later call Josephine was the ultimate survivor. She endured a loveless marriage to a French aristocrat—executed during the Reign of Terror—then barely escaped the guillotine blade herself. Her near-death experience only fueled Josephine’s ambition and heightened her  determination to find a man who could finance and sustain her. Though no classic beauty, she quickly developed a reputation as one of the most desirable women on the continent.
 
In 1795, she met Napoleon. The attraction was mutual, immediate, and intense. Theirs was an often-tumultuous union, roiled by their pursuit of other lovers but intensely focused on power and success. Josephine was Napoleon’s perfect consort and the object of national fascination. Together they conquered Europe. Their extravagance was unprecedented, even by the standards of Versailles. But she could not produce an heir. Sexual obsession brought them together, but cold biological truth tore them apart.
 
Gripping in its immediacy, captivating in its detail, Ambition and Desire is a true tale of desire, heartbreak, and revolutionary turmoil, engagingly written by one of England’s most praised young historians. Kate Williams’s searing portrait of this alluring and complex woman will finally elevate Josephine Bonaparte to the historical prominence she deserves.
Praise for Ambition and Desire
 
“Not just a scholarly work, but a page-turner . . . Williams is no stranger to creating works on strong and influential women, and, as in those works, here she does an admirable job of demystifying Josephine. . . . This engrossing and accessible account is for all readers who enjoy historical biography.”Library Journal
 
“[A] riveting account . . . Williams perfectly illustrates all that was bizarre and maddening about French life during the reign of Josephine and Napoleon Bonaparte.”Publishers Weekly
 
“Intelligent and entertaining.”Kirkus Reviews
 
“An in-depth portrait of the substantive woman behind the throne.”Booklist
“Reading [Ambition and Desire] is like watching Silk Stockings, the 1957 Hollywood masterpiece with Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse. The book flows and jumps, taking the reader by the hand through tormented times in French history without ever letting you go or losing itself in the intricacies of French politics.”—The Times
 
“A sparkling account of this most fallible and endearing of women.”Daily Mail
 
“A whirlwind tour of French...
reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Booklist
      • content: "Not just a scholarly work, but a page-turner . . . [Kate] Williams is no stranger to creating works on strong and influential women, and, as in those works, here she does an admirable job of demystifying Josephine. Ultimately, the author provides the reader with a sympathetic portrayal, yet she doesn't shy away from some of Josephine's flaws. . . . This engrossing and accessible account is for all readers who enjoy historical biography."--Library Journal "[A] riveting account . . . Williams perfectly illustrates all that was bizarre and maddening about French life during the reign of Josephine and Napoleon Bonaparte."--Publishers Weekly "As Williams ably shows, beneath the lust for power and prominence [Josephine and Napoleon] shared, a remarkably durable passion bound them together to the end. An intelligent and entertaining biography of 'the Empress whom France never forgot.'"--Kirkus Reviews "Williams, author of Becoming Queen Victoria and England's Mistress, plucks another fascinating female dynamo from the annals of history, vividly detailing the life of Josephine Bonaparte. . . . An in-depth portrait of the substantive woman behind the throne."
      • premium: False
      • source: The Telegraph
      • content: "Reading [Ambition and Desire] is like watching Silk Stockings, the 1957 Hollywood masterpiece with Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse. The book flows and jumps, taking the reader by the hand through tormented times in French history without ever letting you go or losing itself in the intricacies of French politics."--The Times "A sparkling account of this most fallible and endearing of women."--Daily Mail "A whirlwind tour of French history."
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        September 15, 2014
        Though the romance of Josephine and Napoleon Bonaparte is known by many, Williams (England’s Mistress and Becoming Queen) combs through their history in her riveting account of their 14-year marriage. She begins with Josephine’s childhood; Marie-Josephe, affectionately called “Yeyette” grew up on the island of Martinique, a “paradise of pleasure.” Her future on the island seemed uncertain, and she quickly fulfilled her dream of living in France by marrying her aunt’s stepson Alexandre de Beauharnais. Williams details Josephine’s fraught first years as a young wife as well as her precarious status throughout the bloodiest years of the French Revolution. Battered and bruised, Josephine survived prison, starvation, and her husband’s death, only to find herself at the forefront of Parisian society where everyone “wanted to meet a victim, especially a pretty one without a husband.” For a time the mistress of General Lazare Hoche, Josephine’s life changed forever when she was introduced to the young and restless Napoleone Buonaparte. Their love was suffocating, and their marriage exhausting. Williams addresses Napoleon’s obsession with and mistreatment of his wife, as well as his family’s political intrigues against her. Williams perfectly illustrates all that was bizarre and maddening about French life during the reign of Josephine and Napoleon Bonaparte.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        September 15, 2014
        A British historian's capable account of Josephine Bonaparte (1763-1814) and her tumultuous relationship with the celebrated French general and political leader Napoleon. Born in Martinique to a family of planters, Marie-Josephe-Rose de Tascher de la Pagerie, whom Napoleon would later rename Josephine, dreamed of escaping to the colorful world her father, a former page at the court of Versailles, had told her awaited in Paris. The opportunity to leave for France came in the form of marriage to a wealthy but dissipated young seducer, Alexandre de Beauharnais, who ridiculed his new wife mercilessly for her "thick Creole accent and clumsy manner." Only after de Beauharnais divorced her four years later did Josephine begin her transformation into one of the most desirable women of her age. Determined to find a place among the glittering French nobility, she became a courtesan; through a combination of political savvy and luck, she managed to survive the French Revolution and its bloody aftermath. Liaisons with important leaders eventually brought Josephine into contact with the hero of the French counterrevolution, Napoleon, who fell passionately in love with her. Against the wishes of the socially ambitious Bonaparte family, the pair married in 1796. For the next eight years, the balance of power between them favored Josephine, who took lovers while her husband gloried in his military conquests. But as the ungainly Napoleon grew more desirous to become the new European Caesar, that balance shifted decidedly in his favor. Josephine-who was unable to bear her husband a child-eventually found herself displaced by hordes of mistresses and eventually, a second empress, Marie-Louise of Austria. Yet, as Williams (Becoming Queen Victoria: The Tragic Death of Princess Charlotte and the Unexpected Rise of Britain's Greatest Monarch, 2010, etc.) ably shows, beneath the lust for power and prominence each shared, a remarkably durable passion bound them together to the end. An intelligent and entertaining biography of "the Empress whom France never forgot."

        COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        October 15, 2014

        Inseparable from Napoleon throughout history, Josephine Bonaparte (1763-1814) has a story worthy of a treatment all its own. Williams (history, Oxford Univ; England's Mistress) is no stranger to creating works on strong and influential women, and, as in those works, here she does an admirable job of demystifying Josephine. Ultimately, the author provides the reader with a sympathetic portrayal, yet she doesn't shy away from some of Josephine's flaws, including her questionable morals, excessive spending, and long periods of debt. Williams also describes Josephine's manipulative political ambitions while married to Napoleon, such as coercing her husband to marry his stepdaughter Hortense to his brother Louis Bonaparte, King of Holland. Working from many primary and secondary documents, the author produces not just a scholarly work, but a page-turner, taking the reader from Josephine's childhood in Martinique to the Reign of Terror within the French Revolution and on to her role as the most powerful woman in Europe. VERDICT On the 200th anniversary of Josephine's death, Williams succeeds in composing a fuller and more honest portrait of this enigmatic woman. Although at times repetitive and often containing information found in other volumes, this engrossing and accessible account is for all readers who enjoy historical biography. [See Prepub Alert, 6/2/14.]--Maria Bagshaw, Elgin Community Coll. Lib., IL

        Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        October 15, 2014
        Williams, author of England's Mistress (2006) and Becoming Queen Victoria (2010), plucks another fascinating female dynamo from the annals of history, vividly detailing the life of Josephine Bonaparte. Although Josephine's story has been recounted time and again, it is usually related within the context of her passionate relationship with Napol'on Bonaparte. Although legendary, their tumultuous union was the direct result of an ambition and a desire so great, it rivaled that of the man who would be emperor. Sheer determination and sharp wits propelled Marie-Jos'phe-Rose de Tascher de la Pagerie from the island of Martinique to the salons of Paris, enabling her to survive her bitter first marriage and the horrors of the French Revolution. Meeting her match in Napol'on Bonaparte, Josephine and he embarked on a doomed marital odyssey characterized by personal jealousies and political obsessions. An in-depth portrait of the substantive woman behind the throne.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2014, American Library Association.)

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From CNN's official royal historian, a highly praised young author with a doctorate from Oxford University, comes the extraordinary rags-to-riches story of the woman who conquered Napoleon's heart--and with it, an empire.

Their love was legendary, their ambition flagrant and unashamed. Napoleon Bonaparte and his wife, Josephine, came to power during one of the most turbulent periods in the history of France. The story of the Corsican soldier's incredible rise has been well documented. Now, in this spellbinding, luminous account, Kate Williams draws back the curtain on the woman who beguiled him: her humble origins, her exorbitant appetites, and the tragic turn of events that led to her undoing.

Born Marie-Josèphe-Rose de Tascher de La Pagerie on the Caribbean island of Martinique, the woman Napoleon would later call Josephine was the ultimate survivor. She endured a loveless marriage to a French aristocrat--executed during the Reign of...
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