Sunday, June 03, 2007

Waxing Rhapsodic

Being completely slammed with work and writing, along with playing with my daughters, I haven't had as much time to read as I used to. And I've found that I've become quite stingy with the time I do have. Unless I'm reading for a contest, if a book doesn't completely capture my attention and imagination within the first 100 pages, it gets drop-kicked into my Used Bookstore Bag--no exceptions. Sometimes, I don't even get past the first 50.

So I've been filling up the UBB faster than usual, and it's been awhile since I actually finished a book. I've been wandering around the piles of to-be-read books in my house with a jaded eye, regarding every possible selection I pick up with more than a little skepticism. Is THIS finally going to be the one that shakes me out of my literary ennui? Is THIS going to be worth the precious time I have to read something? Will it be fun? Will I believe the characters? Will I love this book, or will it not be worth coming three hours closer to death while slogging through the first half?

I'm happy to report that I finally found a book that's just so bloody marvelous, I can hardly stand it. I've been on an historical fiction kick lately, and the first book in a trilogy about Josephine Bonaparte satisfied it in spades. Sure, I'd learned about the love story between Josephine and her short, strange little emperor in school, and I well remember Armand Assante's Napoleon ardently declaring her "my obsession" in the long-ago TV miniseries based on their romance. But that's all she was--the object of a great man's affection.

Until I read The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. by Sandra Gulland, that is. The clear-as-a-bell voice and the multi-faceted characters, the historical detail and accuracy were wonderful enough, but to discover that the real Josephine (Gulland's books are based as much as possible on historical fact) was amazingly courageous, a loving mother, a charming and resourceful person, and a feminist (in the best sense of the word) at heart--and not at all the empty-headed seductress of legend. She risked her life numerous times to repeatedly petition for the lives of her imprisoned friends and family members, when it would have been much safer to keep her head low--and ended up in prison and thisclose to losing her own head as a result. She was exceedingly generous, regularly giving her cloaks, coin purses, and bread away, even when she was nearly penniless herself. Her charisma and intelligence allowed her to make many friends in high places--without those qualities, no doubt she and her children would have ended up on the streets. She believed in a free France but still mourned the violence of the Terror and the treatment and deaths of the king and queen, particularly when she thought about Marie Antoinette as a mother.

The only thing I wish is that her teeth had been better. You have this character you love and admire, and then she starts talking about how her choppers are turning black and falling out--and that's just in the first book where she's in her early 30s. Not so attractive, Jo....

Seriously, she's been a magical discovery, and I'm so pleased to have two books left in Gulland's trilogy. Of course, I'm already mourning the fact that I will probably devour those in a week or two, and then it will all be over and I won't have another Gulland book to read until she publishes her next one, on a date still to be determined (no doubt because of the copious amount of research she puts into her work. On her website, she notes that she probably threw away at least a thousand pages when her research would turn up a new fact that changed elements of her story).

This is the kind of writer I want to be when I grow up--one who makes readers wax rhapsodic on their blogs about how much her book sucked them into its world. It's good to have a goal.

Although I can't even IMAGINE writing and throwing away a thousand pages without my head exploding. A hundred or two, maybe....

1 comment:

Jennifer McK said...

I've seen this book and wondered. Thanks for the "waxing". I do fall in love with newer authors than the more established author's work these days.
Congrats on finding a book you can blog about.

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Tracy Montoya writes romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue.

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