Friday, October 29, 2010

Désirée by Annemarie Selinko

I received a review copy of this novel from Sourcebooks. This in no way affected my opinions.

I was very excited for the chance to read and review the reissue of the classic historical fiction novel Désirée by Annemarie Selinko.

Written in diary form, Désirée is told from the point of view of Bernardine Eugénie Désirée Clary who was Napoleon's one-time fiancee and who became the Queen of Sweden and Norway as the wife of King Charles XIV John who was a former French General by the name of Bernadotte.

Désirée starts her diary, which was a gift from her father years before, at the age of 14. She talks about the imprisonment of her brother, which then eventually leads her to Napoleon for the first time.

Through the years, we see as Désirée becomes a wife, mother and sometimes in the middle of politics. She is often naive and is not always aware when she is being taken advantage of, whether it's by her husband Bernadotte or Napoleon himself.

Désirée is not a light read in both content and length. Often there are pages of military talk which, I admit, sometimes went over my head. However, it was interesting seeing all the big events of the time through Désirée, who was often right in the middle.

The story ends in 1829, at age 42, at Désirée's coronation as Queen of Sweden and Norway. She lives another 31 years after, but it is here that she feels that her story is complete.

Overall, I enjoy this book. Often times I felt it was bogged down, and the back and forth between Désirée and Napoleon was wearing thin. Désirée is a classic historical fiction novel, that should be required reading for fans of the genre. I was glad I had the opportunity to experience it.