Review of “Becoming Josephine” by Heather Webb

Webb, Heather. Becoming Josephine. New York: Plume, 2014.

Paperback | $15.00 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0142180655 | 310 pages | Historical Fiction

I won Becoming Josephine in a giveaway from Heather Webb, and while I put off reading it for a while, I had a desire to finally read it after finishing Meet Me in Monaco and coming to the realization that while I had read everything Hazel Gaynor had written, I had yet to truly experience Webb’s work. I also was excited to get a more intimate portraste of the marriage of Napoleon and Josephine, especially since I didn’t know much about either of them except what I had learned in history books.

And Webb perfectly captures Josephine’s life, with all its troubles, with her loveless mariage to her first husband, his execution in the Revolution and the uncertainty of her position during the Reign of Terror, and the ups and downs of her passionate, turbulent marriage to Napoleon. I truly felt for her in the second half, with Napoleon’s family being cruel to her, the very kingly hypocrisy that he can take lovers, because “they mean nothing,” but he forbids her from doing the same, and the ultimate breakdown of their union due to her inability to give him an heir.

If there is one criticism of the book, it’s that the language isn’t always one hundred percent accurate, and in my subsequent research, I found some others were concerned with some of the historical liberties taken as well. I can understand why Webb made some of the decisions she did to appeal to a very specific audience of historical fiction readers, and, being that I don’t know very much about Josephine, I wasn’t too bothered, but can understand why others might be.

That said, I think this is a great historical fiction read for those newer to the genre or to Napoleon and Josephine’s love story.

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