Oh, Josephine, where will I be without you? I have so enjoyed this trilogy. All three books were well written — I honestly felt as if I were part of the story. But “The Last Great Dance on Earth” was my favorite of the three.
I was entranced in from the second Napoleon woke Josephine from her sleep with, “Josephine … come see the moon.” This first line of the book really showcases the deep love these two shared. It’s a love that several wars, infertility and infidelity couldn’t even break. Heck, it was a love that even divorce couldn’t extinguish.
This book takes us through the years of Napoleon’s rise (and fall) as leader of France — and conqueror of much of Europe. It takes us through the coronation of the couple as Emperor and Empress of France, a role Josephine despises. She longs for the simpler days, the days of solitude. She longs for the early days of her marriage to Napoleon without the pressures and rules of being the highest ruler in the land.
Josephine’s diary entries reveal her deep pain and devastation as Bonaparte takes on lover after lover — a fact she is forced to embrace in order to save her marriage, her love. She even comes to view the allowance of this infidelity as her gift to Bonaparte, as she is unable to produce an heir for him.
We also read about her joys as her children grow up and get married, bringing Napoleon and herself grandchildren. And we continue to learn about her frustrations as the Bonaparte clan takes every effort possible to break apart her marriage to Napoleon — even as far as potentially impregnating a young girl so it would appear Napoleon had a child. He did end up having a child with one of his mistresses — just not as his family had arranged.
As war continues to ravage the country, we watch as Napoleon and Josephine are forced to consider divorce as a means to reunite the country and ensure Napoleon is able to remarry and produce an heir. Josephine’s heartbreaking account of this situation left me in tears on more than one occasion. I could feel her heart breaking. What’s more, I could feel Napoleon’s heart breaking. And if there’s one thing that gets me every time, it’s the mere reference of a man crying.
If I had to pick one word to sum up this book, it would be “sacrifice.” Essentially everyone in this book had to make a sacrifice of some sort for the cause at hand — some sacrifices bigger than others, some more devastating. It made me wonder if I’d be able to make those kinds of grand sacrifices for the greater good. Love is an interesting thing — and sometimes letting someone go is the biggest act of love there is.