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Reviewed by Lit Amri for Readers' Favorite
The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte by Ruth Hull Chatlien tells the true story of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, better known as Betsy. She was the daughter of a Baltimore merchant, William Patterson, and was the first wife of Jérôme Bonaparte and sister-in-law of Emperor Napoleon I of France. I enjoyed learning about Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Bonaparte as my knowledge about her is almost non-existent. Getting to know one of the historical figures famously known as the ‘Notorious Belle of Baltimore’ through this novelized fact-based book is pleasant and enlightening at the same time. Betsy attended Madame Lacomb's Academy and studied history, culture, mathematics and French – knowledge that would later serve her well.
I personally think that Odette, Madame Lacomb’s slave, was an important catalyst for choices that Betsy made in her life – regardless whether Odette’s prophecy was legit or not in the first place. It still amazes me what we can learn from someone back in the past. Betsy’s determination transcends time because she was a strong-minded woman who shaped her own destiny, despite the obligatory limitations that society and her family tried to impose on her. Her choice to be with the man she loved, her fight for her marriage, plus her daring French fashion sense showcased her strength, charisma and wit. This is a laudable work from Chatlien. Her writing resonates with elegance, yet is simple and clear. It is easy to become absorbed in this well-written historical novel. The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte will appeal to all avid readers of the genre.