The Game of Hopeby Sandra Gulland Published 26 Jun 2018
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For Napoleon's stepdaughter, nothing is simple -- especially love.
Paris, 1798. Hortense de Beauharnais is engrossed in her studies at a boarding school for aristocratic girls, most of whom suffered tragic losses during the tumultuous days of the French Revolution. She loves to play and compose music, read and paint, and daydream about Christophe, her brother's dashing fellow officer. But Hortense is not an ordinary girl. Her beautiful, charming mother, Josephine, has married Napoleon Bonaparte, soon to become the most powerful man in France, but viewed by Hortense as a coarse, unworthy successor to her elegant father, who was guillotined during the Terror.
Where will Hortense's future lie?
Inspired by Hortense's real-life autobiography with charming glimpses of teen life long ago, this is the story of a girl chosen by fate to play a role she didn't choose.
"The Game of Hope" Reviews
As much as I love historical fiction, this novel did not hit the mark for me.
It was an okay read but nothing more beyond that. The story barely graded on events going on at the time and instead mainly focused on the character of Hortense. This is understandable as she is the main character and the novel is marketed being about her story.
However, I found she was somewhat of a boring and bland character. Adding on to that, she did not come across as being a teenager and seemed to be more relatable to a 10-12 year old in maturity.
Overall, it was an okay and average read but I wish that there was more of a plot. There didn’t seem to be anything happening and read more similar to a daily diary from a young girl.
***Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review***
What does the future hold for the timid daughter of a beautiful woman; the step-child of a ruthless man?
When the story opens in 1798, Hortense de Beauharnais, whose father was guillotined during the last days of the Terror in France, is 15. Josephine, her notorious mother, is married to Napoleon Bonaparte, who is in Egypt leading the French army, and Hortense lives at a boarding school for aristocratic girls, nursing her talents, her sorrows and her secrets passions.
Sandra Gulland returns to the French Revolutionary era to tell the personal story of the young Hortense during the momentous rise of Napoleon from leading General to First Consul. Hers is the story of every young woman – influenced by momentous events, yet shaped much more by the incidents of her own life -- her guilt over her father’s death, her sorrow over the loss of a school friend, her passion for music.
Hortense is a well-rounded character, who grows in maturity over the two-year period of the novel. The setting seethes with the flavor of the era and the history weaves seamlessly into the story. Without giving anything away, the story ends on an uplifting note, as Hortense grows in empathy.
Delightfully written, as we expect from Ms. Gulland, thought perhaps a trifle slow-paced at times, this would be an excellent read for young adults, especially those with a love for history and for delicate romance.
*I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.*
Game of Hope by Sandra Gulland
One of the pleasures of reading historical novels is that the best ones bring alive the past in a way no history book can. Game of Hope is such a book.
Hortense Beauharnais, age 15, is the daughter of Josephine Bonaparte and step-daughter of Napoleon.
Hortense is a student at a lovely girls’ boarding school outside of Paris, near her mother’s estate Malmaison. A serious, bookish, musical girl, rather prim, plain and straight laced in a school that encourages scholarly interests in girls, Hortense is as unlike her beautiful, extravagant, sensual mother, Josephine as it is possible to be.
The novel begins in 1798, four years after the Reign of Terror in France, after the Revolution. The horror and violence of the Reign are still very much part of Hortense and her classmates’ memories. Each of them has been traumatized by the excesses of the Reign through loss of family or parents. Hortense reveres her father who was beheaded during this time although she hardly knew him. She is also critical of her mother whom she loves but considers frivolous and unreliable. As Hortense matures, both of her views are drastically altered.
I enjoyed this historical novel because it portrayed a convincing picture of France after the Revolution by focussing on an historical figure of whom too little is known. Other characters included members of the Bonaparte family, in particular, Napoleon’s dreadful sister Caroline, and brother Louis. Both were heartily disliked by Hortense.
If accuracy is the ultimate way to show respect to your readers then Sandra Gulland has succeeded brilliantly. She is a painstaking researcher. Many of the scenes in the novel are based on actual events. She treats us to a number of historical details that bring this fascinating era to life, including Hortense’s musical compositions, letters written by the headmistress of the boarding school, Campan, Hortense’s music teacher, Hyacinthe Jadin.
I should mention that I was fortunate to receive an advanced review copy of this engaging novel.
Another excellent novel by Sandra Gulland. Some very apt words from Net Galley:
"Sandra Gulland demonstrates a masterful grasp that she has on history in her book The Game of Hope .... Gulland ... has no problem displaying her understanding of post-revolution France and therefore invites her readers into a well-developed universe of Hortense de Beauharnais.
This book is well written for younger audiences of teenage girls, connecting them to the past with common issues that all preteen girls face in a timeless fashion. Gulland does not pump Hortense’s 1780 mind full of 2017 ideas, which is a genuinely refreshing change to the typical YA historical novel
… for most preteen girls, this is still a wonderful introduction to history through the eyes of someone just like them, who truly lived, breathed, thought and felt in the same ways that they do."
★★★✬☆ The Game of Hope opens in 1798. France is in shambles four years after Robespierre was executed. Our narrator is in a boarding school full of nobility who fear that The Terror Robespierre wreaked could happen again. I will admit to my ignorance of this time period, but Sandra Gulland navigated this potential gap in her reader's knowledge by providing a very brief historical note at the beginning of the novel to give them the required information.
“You grew up in a violent time,” she said, her voice soft. “You witnessed things no child should ever have to see. But memories are like words on a wax tablet: they can be erased. You are smart, and creative, and talented. You can become whatever you wish, but first, you must learn to direct your thoughts—even your dreams.” She tucked a stray strand of my hair back up under my nightcap. “Remember: you are safe now.”The story follows Hortense, the 15 year old stepdaughter of Napoleon Bonaparte, during her final year at The Institute -- a finishing school that houses a number of orphaned and/or traumatized children of nobility following the Terror. The characters are rich and come alive on the page, and I found myself caring for each of them deeply.
I appreciated the discussion of difficult topics surrounding that period, including the slave trade (and the differences between the American and French views pertaining to "freedom"), arranged marriage versus romantic love, and a woman's "place." Despite the time-frame, I found the writing and central characters to have a feminist spirit while still adhering to the expectations of the time period. I really appreciated the historical accuracy to the period while still giving the characters dreams and desires beyond that.
“Kitchens?”This novel is a coming of age tale, but it is about more than hope, growing up, and young love. It is about living after a political nightmare, the trauma, of moving on and covers the brief period of time between the Revolution and the Napoleonic Periods through a character-driven perspective of the events. True to the time period, there are discussions of arranged marriage, etiquette, and the art of courting; however, romance is not the central component of this story. If you are looking for a historical romance novel of this time period, I think you will be disappointed.
“You need to see them because we’re taught how to cook.”
Eliza stopped on the landing, holding Henry by the neck (strangling him). “Slaves do not perform that function?”
“We have a cook, but Maîtresse Campan believes it’s important that we learn to look after ourselves. We make our own beds and tidy our rooms, sew our own smocks and sashes, cook—”
“In America, slaves perform all that,” Eliza informed me with a somewhat snobbish tone. As if we in France weren’t as advanced.
“Slavery is against the law here,” I said.
Her eyes went wide. “No slaves ?”
“Not since the Revolution. We believe in equality.”
“In America, likewise!”
“Equality for all ,” I said, swinging open the heavy door.
The book is very well researched and I really appreciated the historical commentary at the end of the book describing what was from the historical record. I was a bit put off by the abrupt ending and although I was happy to see those gaps filled in from a historical standpoint, I wish the narrative just didn't end. I also expected that the game of hope (tarot cards) would hold a larger part of the narrative due to the title of the novel, but perhaps it is my personal love for the supernatural harboring this desire!
Thank you First to Read for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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The Game of Hope is a historical fiction novel for Teens that focuses on the life of Hortense de Beauharnais, Napoleon Bonaparte's 15-year-old stepdaughter. The story is set in 1798 in France, not long after the horrors during the Reign of Terror.
This was a quiet, slowly paced book that focuses on Hortense's life. It's a coming-of-age story of a girl struggling to deal with the after effects of The Terror and her unique family life, while still dealing with the normal struggles of teenage girls of that era.
The Game of Hope had an interesting focus and premise and readers should enjoy getting to see a different side to Napoleon as a family man as he rises to power. But I was hoping for more historical detail. Readers learn about the history from the sidelines and only through Hortense' point of view as she goes about her daily life. Gulland provides a broad sense of post-Revolution France, but I had to draw on previous books (namely Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran) for a clearer picture of the devastation and horror of the time. Without a clearer picture of the era outside of Hortense' small world, I don't know if teens will truly grasp how horrific the Terror was for French citizens.
This is a good introduction of French history for teen girls featuring a protagonist their own age who lived a unique life as part of the Boneparte family and continues to deal with the after effects of the French Revolution.