The first time that I read a biography detailing the life of Josephine Bonaparte, I was in awe of the fact that this women had not only lived an incredible life but a life that spanned some of, if not most of, modern day Frances' major events, revolutions, and grands themes... colonization, aristrocracy, monarchy, revolution, Empire...
Josephine was born in Martinique - she was a product of colonial France and suffered discrimination upon her arrival in France due to her accent and mannueurisms.
She is a survivor, above all else - having survived imprisonment (the result of which was severe trauma both physical and psychological, the physical effects most probably left her barren and therefore sealed her sad fate with Napoleon as he would ultimately divorce her for her inability to bare him an heir).
Josephine (a name given to her by Napoleon, her real name is Rose) was a revolutionary in her own right - she was a businesswoman who earned money and took on the responsability of debts on her own (this infuriated Bonaparte), she was part and parcel of the triumphs and losses (sacrifices) of the Revolution as her first husband, Alexandre de Beauharnais, was eventually guillotened and Josephine herself was jailed and awaiting death until a friend got her out just in time.
She was not just a wife, nor a passive actor in this incredible theater of Revolution - Josephien supplied Napoloen with contacts and advice that helped buttress and leverage him to his eventual positions of power, she was an active participant in pre-Revolutionary life in Paris - hosting salons, befriending some of the Revolutions most memorable and interesting characters - I say this all because she is often overlooked, her story is not told enough nor loudly enough.
While her life reads as an incredibly interesting book, it must have been utterly exciting, full of joys and sorrows, and utterly trying, depressing, and scary at times. The uncertainty of post Revolutionary life, no matter where - is an endless land of ultimate possibility and ultimate insecurity. Her friends, left and right were disappearing, being hunted and guillotened, her own debts rose and rose, she feared for her own life and that of her country. She was never able to bring her parents to France and thus received letters announcing their illnesses and deaths from afar, she spent a long time in prison, awaiting death and suffering all the while, and then after finding her great love - she endured constant infidelity and eventual divorce - a divorce she accepted and offered to France so that it could have an heir - but this eventually killed Josephine herself and she never recovered from this last and ultimate blow.
The study of Josephine is interesting in that her life spans what has made modern day France but reads as a diary and allows the reader to live day in, day out - what a revolution feels like - the insecurity, the excitement, the possibility of change -it is very different than reading simple (after the) facts neatly penned in summary style where the reader doesnt taste the sensations of deep and dark emotions and philosophy.
Whilst reading this book, I thought of my country's revolution and how brave those men and woman were and I also thought of all the countries presently in states of transformation like Iraq - how that must feel on a micro level.
Do today's decision makers take this into consideration? Do they read historical books that tell the blow by blow accounts and not a neat and simple summary hundred of years later when all is well and good (and many other factors, leaders, governments etc... have aided in writing the ultimate accounts)?