Desiree : An all time favourite book #FridayReflections
Choosing a favourite book
Asking a book lover to choose a favourite book is almost like asking someone to choose from an assortment of chocolates. That is hard isn’t it?
But tucked away in the recesses of my bookshelf library is a dog eared paper back copy of Desiree. The book has been hidden out of sight so that it is not lent to any one by mistake. Yes like most book lovers, I am very particular about lending my books especially to those who don’t bother returning them.
The book has been read and re-read so many times by me and my daughters that it has come apart at the spines. It is stuck together with brown, self adhesive tape and the pages are brown and brittle to the touch. Yet, we can’t bring ourselves to throw it out. In fact, we treasure it like a miser, only to be brought out once a year to be read with the same enthusiasm as we did the very first time.
Why Desiree is an all time favourite
The first time I read this book was as a student at University. My mother , who herself is no great reader suggested I read this book. More intrigued by the book that captured her imagination , I went down to the now defunct Strand Book Stall and purchased a copy for myself. This is hardly a book found in a college library or the neighbourhood lending library that was a hole in the wall stocking comics, Westerns, Mills & Boon and other kinds of Pulp fiction.
The story of Desiree is all the more fascinating because she not only became the Queen of Sweden but her descendants are still the current reigning monarchs!
Who would have imagined that Desiree Clary the younger daughter of a French silk manufacturer and merchant would achieve such immortality and fame?
By a strange quirk of fate, Desiree finds herself embroiled with the brothers Bonaparte. Joseph, the brother who discovers Desiree is pushed aside by Napoleon his younger brother. Joseph marries Julie, Desiree’s older sister instead. Alas! While Napoleon was affianced to Desiree, he falls in love with Josephine Beauharnais. He promptly dumps the young girl for an older woman who was better suited for his political ideals. So without much ado, he dumped the poor girl and allowed her to marry his trusted General Bernadotte.
Now isn’t that a fascinating story?
A historical novel
I love historical novels especially those written in the first person. Lost in the pages of history, a reader is transported to those tumultuous times when the whole of Europe was in turmoil. It is a book that explores passions, love, jealousy, anger, intrigue, courage and a whole host of human emotions. Even now I feel the young girl’s hear flutter as she prepares to meet her tempestuous fiancee. I feel her anguish and pain when she is spurned for an older woman. But Desiree is vanquished when she marries Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte. This gentle giant who is staid and prosaic, offers her stability and a firm place in history.
This is a story that has enchanted three generations of women in my family. I can’t wait for my little Ms. Papaya to fall under its spell.