Thursday, November 4, 2010

'Desiree' by Annemarie Selinko

Genre: Historical Fiction

About:(From Sourcebooks) An enchanting tale of the life of Bernardine Eugenie Desiree Clary (1777-1860), a silk merchant's daughter and Napoleon's first fiancee. Reborn through the beloved words of Danish writer Annemarie Selinko is Desiree.

Why I wanted to read this book:
  • I knew absolutely NOTHING about this woman Desiree and found her story to be so intriguing that I just knew I had to read this book.
What worked for me:
  • Desiree- I wish I could get in a time machine and meet her! She was truly fascinating and her story is quite unbelievable, but true. She came from humble beginnings, found herself a part of Napoleon's court, married for love, and ended up crowned Queen of Sweden. She was a loyal wife, a nurturing mother, a devoted friend, and a trusted sister. She was a brave soul and was probably one of the only people who was able to get Napoleon to bend to her requests.
  • All of the historical information was at times overwhelming and there are still a few things about Napoleon's reign that are a bit fuzzy to me, but I found myself stopping and getting on the computer to look up certain events and people. I like books that make me want to know more!
  • The love story between Desiree and her husband Jean-Baptiste. Their feelings ran deep and true, and the way they protected each other was heartwarming.
  • Napoleon was certainly a man who thought much of himself. At the beginning of the book I found myself actually liking the young Napoleon, especially when he expresses his love for Desiree and they become engaged. Then he goes to Paris for a year and behind Desiree's back he gets engaged to Josephine. That is where the manipulation of people really becomes evident. He was such a pompous fool strutting around in his weird little uniforms. When he crowns himself Emperor of France I was amazed that the French didn't get out the death machine (guillotine) and have the ladies bring their knitting while they removed his head from his body!!! The amount of money he spent on himself and all of his bumbling idiot family members is outrageous. Desiree's heart was broken when she found out about Napoleon's betrayal ,but in hindsight that was the best thing that happened to her.
  • The writing and research that went into this book is quite impressive. I'm very grateful that Sourcebooks has given this book new life. Desiree is one woman that you'll be glad that you took the time to get to know!

What you should do before reading this book:
  • Once again I've found that by doing a bit of research online has helped me get to know the people in this book a bit better. I found some great pictures of Desiree. It was a very cool feeling to see how beautiful she was and to put a face to her name. 
                         Desiree Clary                     Jean Baptiste Bernadotte      

Recommend? I would recommend this book without hesitation. I recently read and loved "The Secret History of the Pink Carnation." Reading Desiree brought situations from that book to life and has ignited my desire to delve into this period of history again. So, for those that enjoy historical fiction that take real people and expand on their lives, I am sure you will love this book.

My Rating: 4/5

Thank you to Danielle @ Sourcebooks for sending me a review copy. I was not compensated for my review.
My thoughts on this book were in no way influenced by the author or publicist.
They are my personal reflections based solely on MY experience while reading this novel.

About the author:
Annemarie Selinko was born in Vienna in 1914. She was a successful journalist and novelist. In 1938 she moved to Copenhagen, and subsequently lived in Stockholm, Paris, and London, before returning to Copenhagen. Annemarie Selinko died in Copenhagen in 1986. Desiree is dedicated to the memory of her sister Liselotte, murdered by Nazis in WWII.

© 2010, Staci of Life in the Thumb. All Rights Reserved. If you reading this on a site other than, Life in the Thumb or Staci's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. It's such fun to discover real historical figures through a novel. I'm sure a little research beforehand helps a lot, too! This sounds like a good one.

  2. I love it when I can take info from one book and add it to what I've learned in another historical novel and get an enhanced understanding. Sounds like a good read.

  3. Wowwwwwwwwwwwwwwww! This sounds WONDERFUL! :):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):)

  4. Intriguing cover and looks like a fascinating life. You know how I love my historical fiction, though I have not read that much about the French.

  5. The subject of this book fascinates me - I think because it's set in France. I definitely want to check this one out!

  6. This sounds really good although I notice that the picture on the cover looks better than she did in real life! :--)

  7. What a well-written review, Staci! You brought the book alive. It is a period of time I know little about.

  8. I'll keep this one in mind. I've never heard of her, and you've made this book sound so good.

  9. I have this one on my tbr list. It sounds fantastic. Good review, Staci!

  10. I know right, just wonderful :D
    I knew a great deal about her, but that was all after she came to Sweden, and nothing at all about all those things happening before

  11. Oh I am interested now too! I wasn't sure about this one and was afraid it would be a stinker.
    I am definitely going to write this one down. Great review. (I'll bring some knitting for you too.)

  12. you've been reading some great books lately.

  13. What an excellent review. I can tell you really enjoyed this book by all your personal references. You make me want to read it. Also love the cover.

  14. I am with you on enjoying books that make me want to know more. I have never study much abut Napoleon so I didn't know he was engaged to someone before Josephine. as you mentioned Napoleon's betrayal was definitely a good thing for Desiree. Fascinating review!

  15. For some reason, Napoleon is fascinating to me but I never heard of Desiree -- thanks for the wonderful review and highlighting this woman. Sounds like a most interesting book.

    Have a great weekend!

  16. You're really discovering some interesting real life figures that are little known. Going to have to add this one to the wish list as well.

  17. I love historical fiction that inspires you to learn more about a particular era or historical figure. I'll keep an eye out for this one.


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