Desiree: The Bestselling Story of Napoleon's First Love by Annemarie SelinkoDesiree: The Bestselling Story of Napoleon's First Love by Annemarie Selinko

Desiree: The Bestselling Story of Napoleon's First Love

byAnnemarie Selinko

Paperback | October 5, 2010

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An epic love story? irresistible reading." -Chicago Tribune T o be young, in France, and in love: fourteen year old Desiree can't believe her good fortune. Her fiance, a dashing and ambitious Napoleon Bonaparte, is poised for battlefield success, and no longer will she be just a French merchant's daughter. She could not have known the twisting path her role in history would take, nearly breaking her vibrant heart but sweeping her to a life rich in passion and desire. A love story, but so much more, Desiree explores the landscape of a young heart torn in two, giving readers a compelling true story of an ordinary girl whose unlikely brush with history leads to a throne no one would have expected. An epic bestseller that has earned both critical acclaim and mass adoration, Desiree is at once a novel of the rise and fall of empires, the blush and fade of love, and the heart andsoul of a woman. "This is a fascinating panorama, from the blood-and-sawdust reek of Robespierre's guillotine to the final collapse of the Hundred Days." -New York Times What Readers Are Saying "An absolutely marvelous story about a courageous woman in a difficult time who made difficult choices? one of the best books I have ever read." "Desiree seems to come alive when I read, and I becomeher. This book is so romantic, so colorful and full of adventure." "This book has meant so much to so many women." "History has never before been as human as it is here, told through the pages of Desiree's (fictitious) diary." "
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. She died in Copenhagen in 1986.
Title:Desiree: The Bestselling Story of Napoleon's First LoveFormat:PaperbackDimensions:608 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.31 inPublished:October 5, 2010Publisher:SourcebooksLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1402244029

ISBN - 13:9781402244025

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Read from the Book

Marseilles, at the beginning of Germinal, Year II (The end of March, 1794, by Mama's old-fashioned reckoning) A woman can usually get what she wants from a man if she has a well-developed figure. So I've decided to stuff four handkerchiefs into the front of my dress tomorrow; then I shall look really grown up. Actually I am grown up already, but nobody else knows that, and I don't altogether look it. Last November I was fourteen, and Papa gave me this lovely diary for my birthday. It's a shame to spoil these beautiful white pages with writing. There's a little lock at the side of the diary, and I can lock it up. Even my sister Julie won't know what I put in it. It was my last present from dear Papa. My father was the silk merchant François Clary, of Marseilles; he died two months ago, of congestion of the lungs. "What shall I write in that book?" I asked in perplexity when I saw it on the table among my presents. Papa smiled and kissed me on the forehead. "The story of Citizeness Bernardine Eugénie Désirée Clary," he said, and suddenly he looked sad. I am starting my future history tonight, because I'm so excited I can't get to sleep. So I slid softly out of bed, and I only hope Julie, over there, won't be awakened by the flickering of the candle. She'd make a frightful scene. The reason why I'm excited is that tomorrow I'm going with my sister-in- law Suzanne to see Deputy Albitte and ask him to release Etienne. Etienne is my brother, and his life is in danger. Two days ago the police suddenly came to arrest him. Such things do happen these days; it's only five years since the great Revolution, and people say it's not over yet. Anyhow, lots of people are guillotined every day in the Town Hall square, and it's not safe to be related to aristocrats. Fortunately, we haven't any fine folk among our relatives. Papa made his own way, and he built up Grandpa's little business into one of the biggest silk firms in Marseilles. Papa was very glad about the Revolution, though just before it he had been appointed a Purveyor to the Court and had sent some blue silk velvet to the Queen. Etienne says the velvet was never paid for. Papa almost cried when he read to us the first broadside giving the Rights of Man. Etienne has been running the business since Papa died. When Etienne was arrested, Marie, our cook, who used to be my nurse, said quietly to me, "Eugénie, I hear that Albitte is coming to town. Your sister-in-law must go to see him and try to get Citizen Etienne Clary set free." Marie always knows what's going on in town. At supper we were all very dismal. Two places at the table were empty-Papa's chair next to Mama and Etienne's next to Suzanne. Mama won't let anyone use Papa's chair. I kept thinking of Albitte and crumbling my bread into little balls. That annoyed Julie. She is only four years older, but she wants to mother me all the time and it makes me wild. "Eugénie," she said, "it's bad manners to crumble your bread." I stopped making bread balls and said, "Albitte is in town." The others took no notice. They never do when I say anything. So I said it again. "Albitte is in town." At that Mama said, "Who is Albitte, Eugénie?" Suzanne was not listening, she was sobbing into her soup. "Albitte," I said, proud of my knowledge, "is the Jacobin Deputy for Marseilles. He is staying a week and will be in the Town Hall every day. And tomorrow Suzanne must go to see him; she must ask him why Etienne has been arrested, and insist that it must be a misunderstanding." "But," Suzanne sobbed, looking at me, "he wouldn't receive me!" "I think-I think it might be better," said Mama doubtfully, "for Suzanne to ask our lawyer to see Albitte." Sometimes my family make me sick. Mama won't have a jar of marmalade made at home unless she can give it a stir. And yet she will leave a matter of life and death to our silly old lawyer. I expect many grown-ups are like that. "We must see Albitte ourselves," I said, "and Suzanne, as Etienne's wife, is the one who should go. If you're scared, Suzanne, I'll go, and I'll ask Albitte to release my big brother." "Don't you dare go to the Town Hall!" said Mama at once. Then she went on with her soup. "Mama, I think..." "I do not wish to discuss the matter further," said Mama, and Suzanne began sobbing into her soup again. After supper I went upstairs to see whether Persson had got back. You see, in the evening I give Persson French lessons. He has the sweetest old horse-face imaginable. He's terribly tall and thin, and he's the only fair-haired man I know. That's because he is a Swede. Heaven only knows where Sweden is-somewhere up by the North Pole, I think. Persson showed me once on the map, but I forget where. Persson's papa has a silk business in Stockholm, and the business is somehow connected with ours here. So Persson came to Marseilles for a year to be an assistant in Papa's business. Everyone says you can only learn the silk trade in Marseilles. So one day Persson came to our house. At first we couldn't make out a word of what he said. He declared that he was talking French, but it didn't sound like French at all. Mama got a room ready for him on the top floor, and said that in these unsettled times it was better for Persson to live with us. I found Persson had come in; really he is such a respectable young man, and we sat down in the parlour. Usually he reads to me from the newspapers, and I correct his pronunciation. And once more, as so often, I got out the old broadside about the Rights of Man that Papa had brought home, and then Persson and I listened to each other reciting it, because we wanted to learn it all by heart. Persson's old horse-face grew quite solemn, and he said he envied me because I belonged to the nation that had presented these great thoughts to the world. "Liberty, Equality, and the Sovereignty of the People," he declaimed, sitting next to me. Then he said, "Much blood has been shed to establish these new laws, so much innocent blood. And it must not have been shed in vain, mademoiselle." Of course, Persson is a foreigner, and he always calls Mama "Mme Clary," and me "Mlle Eugénie," though that is forbidden; we are both just "Citizeness Clary." Suddenly Julie came into the room. "Would you come for a moment, Eugénie?" she said, and took me to Suzanne's room. Suzanne was sitting hunched up on the sofa, sipping port wine. Port is supposed to be strengthening, but I am never given a glass, because young girls do not need strengthening, Mama says. Mama was sitting next to Suzanne, and I could see that she was trying to look energetic. When she does that, she looks more frail and helpless than ever; she hunches up her narrow shoulders, and her face looks very small under the little widow's cap she has worn for two months. My poor mama reminds you much more of an orphan child than a widow. "We have decided," said Mama, "that tomorrow Suzanne will try to see Deputy Albitte. And," Mama added, clearing her throat, "you are to go with her, Eugénie!" "I am afraid to go alone, among all the crowds of people," Suzanne murmured. I could see that the wine had not strengthened her, only made her drowsy. And I wondered why I was to go with her, and not Julie. "Suzanne has made this decision for Etienne's sake," said Mama, "and it will be a comfort to her, my dear child, to know that you are with her." "Of course you must keep your mouth shut, and let Suzanne do the talking," Julie hastened to add. I was glad that Suzanne was going to see Albitte. That was the best thing to do, the only thing, in my opinion. But they were treating me, as usual, like a child, so I said nothing. "Tomorrow will be a very trying day for us all," said Mama, getting up. "So we must go to bed soon."

Table of Contents

Part One
The Daughter of a Silk Merchant of Marseilles

Marseilles, at the beginning of Germinal, Year II
(The end of March, 1794, by Mama's old-fashioned reckoning)            3
Twenty-four hours later                                                                       10
Marseilles, at the beginning of Prairial
(The lovely month of May, says Mama, is almost over)                    28
Marseilles, middle of Thermidor
(Beginning of August, Mama says)                                                   46
Marseilles, end of Fructidor
(Middle of September)                                                                     58
Paris, twelve months later-Fructidor, Year III                                    68
Paris, twenty-four hours-no, an eternity-later                                  76
Marseilles, three weeks later                                                                 89
Rome, three days after Christmas in the Year V
(Here in Italy they still use the pre-Revolutionary calendar: December 27, 1797)                                                                        92
Paris, end of Germinal, Year VI
(Except in our Republic, where everyone calls it April, 1798)            105
Paris, four weeks later                                                                         117

Part Two
Marshal Bernadotte's Lady

Sceaux, near Paris, autumn of Year VI (1798)                                    129
Sceaux, near Paris, New Year's Eve
(The last year of the eighteenth century begins)                             142
Sceaux, near Paris, 17 Messidor, Year VII
(To Mama, probably July 4, 1799)                                                 151
Sceaux, near Paris, a week later                                                          152
Paris, 18 Brumaire of the Year VII
(In other countries: November 9, 1799 Our Republic has a new Constitution)                                                                      164
Paris, March 21, 1804
(Only the Magistrates stick to the Republican calendar, and write today: 1 Germinal of the Year XII)                               178
Paris, May 20, 1804
(1 Prairial of the Year XII)                                                             197
Paris, 9 Frimaire of the Year XII
(By the Church calendar: November 30, 1804)                              207
Paris, at night after Napoleon's coronation
December 2, 1804                                                                         217
Paris, two weeks after the Emperor's coronation                                233
In a stagecoach between Hanover in Germany and Paris,
September, 1805
(The Emperor has forbidden our Republican calendar My late mama would be pleased-she never could get used to it)              244
Paris, June 4, 1806                                                                              256
Summer, 1807, in a travelling coach somewhere in Europe                261
In our new home in the rue d'Anjou in Paris  July, 1809                   275
Villa la Grange, near Paris  Autumn, 1809                                          284
Paris, December 16, 1809                                                                   292
Paris, end of June, 1810                                                                      303

Part Three
Our Lady of Peace

Paris, September, 1810                                                                       311
Paris, September 30, 1810                                                                  338
Helsingör in Denmark, the night of December 21 to
December 22, 1810                                                                        342
Hälsingborg, December 22, 1810
(Today I arrived in Sweden)                                                          347
In the Royal Palace, Stockholm
End of the interminable winter of 1811                                         351
Castle Drottningholm in Sweden
Beginning of June, 1811                                                                362
Paris, January 1, 1812                                                                         369
Paris, April, 1812                                                                                378
Paris, middle of September, 1812                                                       382
Paris, two weeks later                                                                         389
Paris, December 16, 1812                                                                   394
Paris, December 19, 1812                                                                   402
Paris, end of January, 1813                                                                 411
Paris, February, 1813                                                                          415
Paris, beginning of April, 1813                                                           421
Paris, summer, 1813                                                                           428
Paris, November, 1813                                                                       432
Paris, last week in March, 1814                                                          442
Paris, March 30, 1814                                                                         446
Paris, March 31, 1814                                                                         454
Paris, April, 1814                                                                                456
Paris, middle of April, 1814                                                                477
Paris, early May, 1814                                                                        491
Paris, Whitmonday, May 30, 1814
Late in the evening                                                                        498
Paris, late autumn, 1814                                                                     504
Paris, March 5, 1815                                                                          510
Paris, March 20, 1815                                                                         515
Paris, June 18, 1815                                                                            518
Paris, June 23, 1815                                                                            522
Paris, during the night of June 29?30, 1815                                       525

Part Four
The Queen of Sweden

Paris, February, 1818                                                                          543
Paris, June, 1821                                                                                 549
In a hotel room in Aix-la-Chapelle, June, 1822                                  552
In the Royal Palace, Stockholm
Spring, 1823                                                                                  561
Drottningholm Castle in Sweden
August 16, 1823                                                                             566
Royal Palace in Stockholm
February, 1829                                                                               570
Royal Palace in Stockholm
May, 1829                                                                                      575
My coronation day (August 21, 1829)                                                582
Author's Note                                                                                    589
Reading Group Guide                                                                        591
About the Author                                                                               595