Désirée by Annemarie Selinko is a novel based on real events as recounted by one woman, Désirée Clary. It’s an epic, fictionalized biography of Désirée, the one-time fiancée of Napoleon. (I very briefly talked about this book here.)
Désirée lived a very interesting life through some turbulent times in France. She began life as the daughter of a silk merchant and ended her life as the Queen of Sweden.
After Napoleon broke her heart to marry Josephine, Désirée moved on by marrying the tall and dashing Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, a decorated Marshal in Napoleon’s court.
Through her marriage to Bernadotte, Désirée became Queen of Sweden because Sweden picked Bernadotte as their next king. Bernadotte reigned as Charles XIV of Sweden. (Talk about the ultimate get-over-him plan. Ladies, next time a guy breaks your heart, marry a king!)
This part isn’t in the book, but Napoleon hoped that Bernadotte would enact Swedish laws that favored France. Much to the anger and dismay of Napoleon, Bernadotte refused to be a puppet king. He even used his personal fortune to pay Sweden’s national debt. (As an aside, the illustrious Bernadotte line continues to reign in Sweden today.)
The book is completely engrossing and written entirely in the form of diary entries. It’s a mixture of historical fiction and historical gossip sessions. Désirée is completely relatable even though it’s nearly impossible to relate to a young, rich French socialite. I think her diary entries (her gossip rants, her worries, her funny anecdotes, her undying devotion to her child) make her endearing to the reader.
Also, Paris is very much a main character in this book (before the move to Stockholm, that is) and her diary entries are sprinkled with Parisian locales and addresses. Of course, the book was made into a movie. Marlon Brando played Napoleon.
I think the perfect tea for this book is by Ladurée. Ladurée is a decadent Parisian tea and Désirée, for her entire life, loved everything Parisian. I think Désirée would approve of this pairing. You can take the girl out of Paris, but you can’t take Paris out of the girl.
What do you think of this tea pairing?
PS. In case you feel like going down a rabbit hole, my other posts in this series can be found here.
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