tells the story of Marianne d’Asselnat, whose fate—by virtue of her own courageous spirit, coupled with the pull of destiny—became inexorably entangled with that of her native France during the decades when it was responding to Napoleon Bonaparte’s vision of its greatness.
Born and orphaned in the 1793 Reign of Terror, rescued by a priest and raised in exile in England, Marianne married, only to lose—at one stroke of fate on her wedding night—her love, her fortune, her illusions and even her security.
As she flees England; as she is smuggled into Napoleon’s 1809 France (at war with England) with a letter of recommendation to Napoleon’s Minister of Police, Fouch?; as she is placed by Fouch? in the dangerous position of spy in the home of Talleyrand; and as fate, the course of historic events, and the powers of pure chemistry combine to lead Marianne into a love affair with the Master of Europe himself—Napoleon Bonaparte—the reader is treated to a magnificent picture of France in the years of her glory.
Here is all the pomp of the First Empire at its peak, as well as a fascinating record of Napoleon’s political maneuvers and of the strange manners of the Parisian underground. Here, too, often in their own words, are the host of colorful, talented, often eccentric characters who orbited around the Emperor. And here, finally, is Napoleon Bonaparte in one of the liveliest, most believable portraits ever drawn of him.
Juliette Benzoni has in Marianne created a book that is at once historical fiction at its best and a magnificently documented portrait of a great nation in its hour of glory—and of peril.