Désirée: The Bestselling Story of Napoleon’s First Love by Annemarie Selinko
Narrator: Nicole Quinn
Nicole has a natural voice that is either liked or it isn’t. While this should apply to any narrator, in her case, there is a tremble quality to her voice to which some may not be able to adjust. I had no issue with it all. For me, her narration of Desiree is Exceptional. Time and again, she moves effortlessly between various male and female characters in a given scene. Her ability to convey in her reading, the description stated by a speaker’s tag is among the best I have heard. Her masculine voices sounded as though there were a male narrator, hidden in there somewhere. Her performance of this story is like a stage full of actors.
I especially enjoyed the way she is able to create an equally sensual, yet subtle distinction between the voices of Bernadotte and Bonaparte when the two men discourse. Her female voices are whatever emotion or pitch or depth they are called on to be. In a word, her reading is Exceptional.
I do want to add that her male voices, at times, did sound the same for some of the many minor characters, but she maintains a uniqueness with those of the principal male players.
Book Review: Desiree
Selinko’s interpretations of the real-life individuals in her book, naturally enhances them with feelings, mannerisms, and traits that remain consistent throughout. These attributes are so convincing that I reached a place where I could anticipate practically each major character’s reactions in almost any situation. Like the backdrop of a movie, Selinko’s descriptions and focus on details take the reader into Desiree’s world. Coupled with Nicole’s reading, it was wonderful to be so integrated into a fiction of this magnitude.
Desiree’s greatest distinguishing quality is her ability to be herself, despite whatever is going on around her. She is non-pretentious and fits no romantic stereotype. She is a New-Age woman who freely acts and speaks exactly as she desires and a woman who cares little for her ignorance concerning major political issues or the whereabouts of any place or country in the known world except Paris.
Yet, when the stakes are high, she asks enough questions about both politics and locations to keep readers connected with how these two aspects are influencing her fate. I liked her very much for her humanism, her candor, and above all, her compassion. I disliked her for her indifference and selfishness in a situation, where she should have been much more understanding and supportive. An incident that takes place, sixteen hours in the story, made me want to express-mail a letter to her, freely voicing my serious displeasure with the way in which she is behaving.
Throughout the book, her relationship with Napoleon is a broken cord of first love that is never truly severed. The interaction of the two in any given occurrence bears out this fact.
As for historical accuracy, Selinko’s coordination of important dates, battles and events into the everyday lives of her characters gives this story a consistent rope of tension and pumps life into the often distancing non-fictional accounts of Napoleon’s reign.
In fact, were I forced to study this period in history, I should like very much to have a couple of good historical-fiction books on it. After all, it is those one or two soldiers whom we met before as a maid’s or relative’s son that bind our emotions to the fate of all the sons, husbands, fathers, and relatives on the battlefield.
I wasn’t familiar with many of the events surrounding Napoleon’s rise to and fall from power. Often I found myself verifying a few dates (not all of them) and checking the progression of Napoleon’s and Bernadotte’s actions, against non-fictional sources. When the tension was high, I refused to read about what had actually happened, but would read the non-fiction account once I was passed that point in the narrative.
This audiobook is twenty-five hours long, yet I found myself so involved with the life of Desiree and Jean Baptiste that I didn’t want the book to end. Still, when I did further investigations into their real lives, I accepted that Selinko chose the right time to conclude this epistle.
I praise this book as an entertaining fictional world expertly bound to one of history’s most famous timelines in a way that makes it definitely worth listening to.
Bibliography: Desiree: The Bestselling Story of Napoleon’s First Love by Anne Selinko
Length: 25 hrs. 48 minutes (unabridged)
Publisher: ©8-14-2012 Bluebarn Productions
An audio sample and download details are available.