Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Second Empress by Michelle Moran

The Second Empress: A Novel of Napoleon's Court. Michelle Moran. Crown Publishing Group. August 2012. 320 pages. ISBN #: 9780307953032.

Michelle Moran has written a novel about the courtly life of Napoleon Bonaparte and his family.  The story is told from the point of view of Maria Lucia, Princess of Austria, who will become Napoleon's wife after he discards the cheating Josephine; Pauline, Napoleon's sister, who really believes she is like Cleopatra and in truth would like to marry Napoleon and be Empress; Paul Moreau, Napoleon's Haitian chamberlain, trusted by all and serving almost like a Greek chorus in this evolving tragedy; and other characters who have forgotten their origins and become ambitious and proud beyond the mere definition of those words.  This is a stunning story!

The reader will be hard-pressed not to have severe reactions toward these selfish and sad characters.  Pauline seems like a crazed, delusional woman who becomes the master manipulator and shows very little "care" except to Paul and the Empress.  Paul has achieved his freedom at the cost of a sacrifice beyond bearing; ironically he is respected and heard by Napoleon as the latter realizes the fawning lies he hears from all others in his court.

The tension increases as the desired peace, after so many years of war, eludes France and war looms large, forcing changes and decisions that will show the essence of truth of each character herein.

Michelle Moran has an exquisite gift of depicting characters.  Yes, some are stock characters who are just plain nasty people, but others show an educated, compassionate, and cultured side that is the beauty lying behind this tale of pride that goeth before a grand fall!

Masterfully told, Ms. Moran.  No, it's not full of historical events but it does portray the personalities shaping those same events that have already been told numerous times in other places.  Great historical fiction!

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