Who Was Napoleon’s Wife, Joséphine Bonaparte?

With “Napoleon” coming to theaters, we visit the fascinating life of his first wife, Joséphine Bonaparte.

Illustration of the wife of Napoleon, Joséphine de Beauharnais was Empress of the French.from 19th century.
Illustration of Napoleon’s wife, Joséphine Bonaparte. Getty Images

This week, theaters around the country will begin to screen “Napoleon,” a historical drama film based on the story of Napoleon Bonaparte. The film, starring Joaquin Phoenix in the titular role, chronicles Bonaparte’s rise to power and his relationship with Joséphine Bonaparte, his first wife, played by Vanessa Kirby. This week on Deconstructed, author Sandra Gulland joins Ryan Grim to talk about Joséphine Bonaparte and her life during major moments of French history. Gulland has written a series of historical novels based on the life of Joséphine Bonaparte, chronicling her life and rise to become empress. Gulland discusses Joséphine Bonaparte’s time in prison, her positioning within the French Revolution, and her relationship with Napoleon Bonaparte.

Ryan Grim: I’m Ryan Grim, and a quick programming note. Today’s episode of Deconstructed will be our last until the week after Thanksgiving.

Now, on that Monday, November 27th, I’ll be at Politics and Prose at 7 p.m. for a book talk moderated by Krystal Ball, my friend and colleague over at the Breaking Points Network. Afterwards, we’re hosting a gathering for Intercept donors and Deconstructed listeners at the pizza joint next door, the legendary, mythical Comet Ping Pong. I’ll be signing copies of the book there called “The Squad: AOC and the Hope of a Political Revolution.”

If you don’t plan to make it to the reading, do me a favor and preorder a copy. Preorders, for some reason, have an outsized impact on how well a book does. If you like this podcast, you’ll also enjoy the audiobook version, which I read myself. It was a deeply painful process, but I’m glad that I did it.

Now, today, I wanted to do something a little bit different. Next week, Ridley Scott’s Napoleon movie hits theaters, and my understanding is that it focuses heavily on the relationship between Napoleon and his wife Josephine, who is one of the most fascinating figures of the 18th and 19th centuries. Not just one of history’s great icons of glamor but, also, she was integral to Napoleon’s rise and domination.

If you plan on seeing the film, it’ll be fun to go in with some of her background, and for that, I’m lucky enough to be joined by Sandra Gulland, who you may know as the author of the internationally best-selling trilogy based on the life of Josephine. Those works of historical fiction are some 20 years old at this point, but they continue to resonate, and continue to sell.

Sandra, welcome to Deconstructed.

Sandra Gulland: It’s a pleasure to be here.

RG: So, I really appreciate you joining me. As I was mentioning to you just before we started taping this, Ridley Scott’s “Napoleon” film is coming out next week, and I imagine a decent number of listeners of this podcast are going to go see it. All of them will have heard of Napoleon at some point. Some of them will have heard the legend of Josephine, but many won’t have. And, my understanding, I haven’t seen the movie yet, but my understanding is that he kind of frames the movie around the arc of the relationship between Josephine and Napoleon.

And so, I’m really thrilled to be able to chat with you about her life because, to me, there are a lot of people who probably had equally interesting lives throughout. world history, but nobody that had a more interesting life. I mean, tracing her start in the Caribbean to where she wound up at the end and everything in between just defies belief, and defies even the ability of somebody like a Ridley Scott to fit it into a three- or four-hour movie. So, lucky for him that he only focuses on her relationship with Napoleon, but we get to go back further.

Can you talk a little bit about why you became so interested in Josephine? 

SG: Well, I became initially very interested in Josephine for the same reasons that you just mentioned.

I was working as a sponsoring editor for Methuen in Toronto. I was thinking of developing a line of young adult books, of biographies of famous people. So, I went to the library, and took out this little book, and it was about Josephine, and I was just blown over, because her life is just extraordinary.

RG: Let’s start with the fortuneteller. So, there’s this incredible fortuneteller scene in her life which, my understanding is that most historians now believe that this actually did happen.

As a girl, she and her cousin go to a fortuneteller on the Caribbean island of Martinique. And the fortune teller tells her what?

SG: Well, she tells Josephine that she will be unhappily married, and that she will become more than a queen. And I, myself was doubtful of this, but I was able to find out that Josephine was fond of telling this story before she ever married Napoleon, or met him. And it was mentioned in a French newspaper before any of this happened. So, that documented that, in fact, this had happened.

RG: What’s interesting historically about Josephine is that she’s born into a slave plantation, but it’s kind of an underperforming slave plantation. Her father seems like — correct me if you think this is unfair — kind of a bit of a loser.

SG: Oh, well, totally. He was a gambler.

RG: And he can’t really keep things together. They get wrecked by a hurricane. They’re living, what, in the attic above a sugar mill?

SG: Yes, over where the vats of whatever comes out of sugar canes, where the big vats are boiled down, they lived upstairs from it. And I saw this when I went to Martinique, to get a feeling for this place.

RG: And so, her hope to get off this island is to get over to France, and her family becomes connected with the family of… How do I say his last name? Alexandre Beauharnais. He’s a 16-year-old at this time who’s kind of looking for a wife. The family reaches out, and they want somebody other than her. But it sounds like a few people die, [or] get smallpox in order to get her in line?

SG: Yes. One sister, one younger sister was preferred, because they were concerned that Josephine was too old at 14, that she wouldn’t be as trainable to her husband. So, they wanted the younger sister, but that sister died. And the youngest sister, then, they would like her, but the mother was reluctant to let that sister go.

RG: So she gets on the boat, heads over to France, meets Alexandre Beauharnais, and it turns out that he himself is a fascinating figure. He becomes, as I understand it, a character in an incredibly popular book that preceded the French revolution, about a guy who was the best dancer in Paris, and the number one ladies’ man in Paris.

And so, Josephine is kind of watching this unfold. How does this shape her early life, coming to Paris? Which, at the time — and maybe you could describe this a little bit, too — she’s going from the lush, gorgeous Caribbean to … People would think of Paris, oh, it’s the center, it’s the cultural capital of the world. It was also absolutely disgusting. Like, walking through excrement everywhere, the place stunk constantly, and on and on.

SG: Yes, entirely. And her situation there wasn’t at all helped by her husband’s disdain for this country girl with not much in the way of an education. And, equally, she wasn’t that thrilled about all the illegitimate children her husband was producing with other women. It was a very unhappy situation.

RG: How did she take to the pre-revolutionary intellectual period? Because Alexandre then becomes … His social network becomes the kind of noble wing of the revolution, and he will later become president of the National Assembly, and become a real revolutionary. But how did Josephine integrate herself into this intellectual milieu?

SG: Josephine was never an intellect. She was extremely savvy with people. She had a real natural intelligence, but she wasn’t that interested in theory and the more intellectual part of things. But she was totally on the side with the concept of equality. She really did embrace that.

RG: And when did she start kind of coming into her own as a woman? 

She’s a child when she gets married, and I’ve seen her described as kind of frumpy, and kind of felt that Alexandre was the catch of the two. Later in her life, she will become kind of synonymous with sensuality and sexiness, and one of the most attractive women in the 19th century.

So, how does she make that kind of transition?

SG: Alexandre, furious at her and accusing her of infidelity, has her sent to a convent, and this turns out to be a turning place for her. Because it was the type of convent where all the highest and most sophisticated ladies were sent when their husbands were unhappy with them. And so, she really thrived in that situation.

And, before that, she became a Freemason; which, then, women could become Freemasons. And, in that way, she made all these really important contacts with very wealthy businessmen from the Caribbean.

So that, again, was something that really proved to be saving her, ultimately, in the long run.

RG: You’re referring to the way that this marriage ends up crumbling. As it’s crumbling, the revolution is kicking off. She flees, and this is where we get to the place where you’re like, but how could this one person have lived through all these different things?

So, she flees Paris for a while and lives out in the countryside, but is continuously trying to use her connections that she’d built over the years with people in elite society, and what’s becoming revolutionary elite society, to try to get other nobles spared from the blade. And it seems like that effort of hers is what then gets her thrown into one of the most notorious prisons during the French Revolution.

How did she wind up with her estranged husband in this dungeon?

SG: Well, her husband was arrested first, because he was in charge of armies for the revolutionary government. You know, he was the kind of dilettante who would like the party life of being a general as opposed to actually being a general, and he lost battles. And the revolutionary government, when you lost battles, they considered that you were the enemy.

So, he was arrested and put in this terrible prison. 

RG: I should add to that, for the context that I skipped over. He was, at one point, as I mentioned earlier, the president of the National Assembly. He was president of it when the king fled to Varennes. He famously was the one who gaveled out … Like, all right, well, let’s go get the king. And they went and caught him, and brought him back.

His portrait was hanging next to Robespierre for a long time. It feels like, at some point, he was almost the top politician in revolutionary France, at least for maybe a couple weeks or something. It almost feels like her fortune was almost fulfilled there. How significant was he? 

SG: He was like the king. I mean, they didn’t have a king at that point, but he was in charge of the country. And it’s true that it would have appeared to Josephine that her prediction was coming true. Because, if she was to be queen, then the man she’s with would be king. 

RG: And so, she then gets brought into the same prison that he’s in. Can you describe that particular prison? I actually visited it when I was there. 

SG: Oh, really? I did too. I got a lot out of that, seeing it.

Well, it had the reputation of being the worst prison in Paris, and very overcrowded. And every morning people’s names would be read, and these were the names of people who would go to trial and then get beheaded.

So, it was very stressful, and it didn’t help that Alexandre was unfaithful, as he always was, and was having an affair with a woman who was — initially, anyway — a friend of Josephine’s. 

RG: For people who know a little bit about the French Revolution, they’ve heard of the September Massacres where — correct me if I’m wrong — a lot of clergy were massacred.

SG: Yes.

RG: This is the same prison. And so, the blood of that massacre, this was not long after that, so the blood from that massacre was still staining the floors and the walls.

I was actually thinking about that moment that you just described — of the officials coming in and reading off names — recently when I was interviewing a guest who has family in Gaza, because the way that I’ve heard it described is that this list of names would get read off, people would solemnly kind of walk out, knowing that this meant that they were headed to the guillotine, and that there was no joy among the people who did not get called, because they felt like they could be called next.

SG: Exactly.

RG: So, it’s not like there were any winners. We interviewed somebody a few weeks ago who was talking about how a lot of his family members kind of felt that way, that, as their family members were getting killed in airstrikes, those who survived didn’t feel lucky. Not just because of what they were going through, but because they felt like, well, our number is coming too. So, even if we didn’t get it today, we’re getting it soon.

So, they’re sort of estranged at this point. She also meets somebody and has an affair in this prison that almost develops into her next marriage. Is that fair to say?

SG: Certainly, General Hoche was a very attractive man. And, you know, I’m not sure you could say that they were in love with each other, but I believe they had an affair in prison. Certainly, I think it’s possible, because General Hoche was a very attractive man, a very sweet man, and her husband certainly was not.

RG: And he, then, winds up actually getting his name called, and gets the guillotine.

So, Alexandre got the guillotine in late July, 1794, just five days before Robespierre was killed, ending the reign of terror. And it was Robespierre getting the blade that allowed Josephine, then, to get out of prison.

And so, when she leaves, she winds up getting a full divorce, but what is life like for a divorcee in revolutionary France, who has some assets in the Caribbean related to slave plantations that are not producing much of anything. Particularly, I think, related to her father’s inability to run a business, but also because of uprisings. The Caribbean — inspired in part by the French Revolution — is seeing revolts in Martinique and in the Caribbean.

Which reminds me: at one point she goes back to the Caribbean, and ends up basically fleeing amid a slave revolt with cannonballs dropping alongside her. Like, she’s in the middle of town, and they don’t have time to go back to pick up their belongings or anything. They just get on the first boat they can find back to Europe. 

SG: That all happened before she went to prison. So, when she came back to France, France was also in turmoil with the revolution.

RG: And so, once she’s let out of prison, which seems to have caused her deep psychic and physical trauma — it’s an unimaginable kind of thing to go through — how do you put your life back together, as somebody like her? Because it’s not like she can polish a resume and go make money that way.

SG: It’s true. She was a widow, therefore a single mother, of two young teenagers, without any means of support. She had a skill for making friends, because she was a woman who was easy to really like, for both men and women. And so, she started making connections with people who were also survivors of the terror, and this led to her association with Barras, who also — like her husband, who’s now deceased — becomes kind of the guy who’s running the country. So, he could be seen as number-two potential in the fulfillment of this prediction.

And Barras, it’s interesting, because they were very close, and it’s most often assumed that they were lovers, because he would give her money. But the fact is, in the exchange of goods between Josephine and Barras, Barras came out ahead, because Josephine was able to call upon her Freemason connections with wealthy businessmen from the islands and put them in contact with Barras, who was really having financial problems, like everybody.

The assumption was that — and it continues to be — that if a woman had a close relationship with a man that they had to be lovers. But no, Josephine, they were friends, and some historians feel that he was gay. They were good friends, and she helped him a lot, and he helped her. 

RG: And Barras is one of these people that, like you said, is running revolutionary France, in such a debaucherous way that it would make Alexandre look like a rookie. When you read about the kind of parties and orgies that would go on…

SG: Well, I do think that might leave more to the imagination of some of the people who have written about this period.

RG: Interesting. And so, here, let’s talk about how she has risen at this point, to be… If you think of Paris as a high school at the time, she’s like one of the two or three most popular women in Paris. She’s in the “it” crowd.

SG: She is.

RG: So, how did she make that move?

SG: Well, I think because of Barras in that social circle, and Thérèse — she made good friends with Thérèse Tallien. And with Thérèse and Madame de — I’m not very good at these names, either — Rémusat.

They became the fashion leaders of the post-Terror period. And so, it was a wonderful period for women, and they expressed it in their clothing. No more corsets, none of that. No high heels, just nice, comfortable ballet slippers, and gowns that looked more like nightwear, very loose and comfortable. None of these great big, unbelievably uncomfortable wig contraptions that were true in pre-revolutionary times.

Everything was natural, and it was kind of like a hippie revolution in France, because people would name their babies “carrot seed” or “turnip,” or something like that.

RG: Some women were going topless, I’ve seen in some society portraits from back then. Like, a complete reversal of what we had seen before. Andrea Stewart — who you’ve talked about, who wrote the book “The Rose of Martinique” — and, by the way, pause there. Her actual name is Rose, and Napoleon has this incredibly misogynistic habit of literally renaming his girlfriends.

SG: Yes.

RG: Like, he just gives them new names.

But so, in her book “The Rose of Martinique,” she argues that her coming up in the Caribbean gave her a sense of lusciousness, and the vibrant colors, and the sensual explosiveness of that region gave her an advantage when it came to dreary, drab Paris. And once the cork came off and people could be themselves, that she was able, then, to really shine, because she had a sense of colorfulness to her life.

SG: Yes. She had a charm, a very natural charm with people, and a very relaxed way of being with people.

RG: And so, when she finally meets Napoleon… There’s some controversy around how this actually happened. Barras is involved on some level, which kind of does undermine the idea that they were together, that he had so willingly kind of hooked her up with Napoleon. A lot of people think, oh, Napoleon kind of dragged this person from nowhere into becoming Empress, but my understanding is that, at the time, she was the catch. Like, Napoleon was the one who lucked out in latching onto Rose, who became, then, Josephine.

SG: Exactly. No, he was a sorry sight. He was a pathetic little guy.

RG: Kind of scrawny, and like, oily hair, and gross. Yeah. 

SG: And had no manners. He was really kind of a… I mean, he was brilliant in military world, without a doubt, he had huge potential. But he was scrappy. Yeah, he was an embarrassment.

RG: What did she see in him?

SG: My personal feeling is that the key to understanding Josephine is to understand her as a mother. And she was the mother of a son who needed to get into the military in order to have a career, and a daughter who needed a father, who was traumatized by the death of her father, by being beheaded. And I think that’s what she saw in Napoleon; okay, I could settle down now, it’ll be good for my children, and life will now return to a quiet normalcy. Well, forget that.

RG: And let’s talk a little bit about the kind of legendary early romance between Napoleon and Josephine. Because when you go back and read the letters between them, the ones that survive from Josephine, she just seems to be almost disturbed at how “into her” Napoleon is. And you read Napoleon’s letters and you’re like, whoa, whoa, man. Like, slow down here. This is quite something.

What’s your read on their early relationship? 

SG: He was madly in love with her, without a doubt.

I should mention that the other thing I think Josephine appreciated in him is that he really liked children, and he liked her son, Eugène, and Hortense, although Hortense was hostile to him for a long time.

So, it wasn’t all innocent love on his part, either, because Barras kind of made it clear that if he married Rose, that he would be made general of an army, or something like that. So, there was, you know, advantages on both sides. But it wasn’t an arranged marriage, but it wasn’t easy.

For one thing, Napoleon was three hours late to their wedding.

RG: That’s pretty bad.

SG: It’s not good.

RG: The other thing Barras did, he prevented Josephine for a long time from joining him during his Italian campaign. And the explanations I’ve seen is that the French government at the time, the revolutionary government thought that Napoleon was too head-over-heels, and would not be able to focus on his “general-ing.”

What’s your read on why they kept her away for so long?

SG: Well, number one, I think it was Josephine’s choice not to join Napoleon in Italy, but I think that makes sense.

RG: She definitely resisted it, yeah.

SG: Yeah, she did. And then, also, I think there was some truth to that. I don’t know what the documentation is for that, but it makes sense that Barras would think, oh, no, we don’t want to distract this guy.

But, on Josephine’s part, she claimed to be ill. Her best friend was dying in Paris. Her children were still traumatized by the terror that they went through and the loss of their father. And her daughter was just going to be confirmed. And, the fact is that she likely was very ill.

The research that I did, and the consultants that I talked to in France knew more about Josephine than most anyone. But also, a medical doctor, in looking at her records, he felt that the trauma of prison had brought about an early menopause, and she was 32. So, I feel that that’s what she was going through, plus she was having all these fevers.

So, one thing that I find very difficult in reading historians of the past is, they tend to be male, and they tend to say, well, she’s just lying that she’s sick, or they don’t ever give her the benefit of the doubt.

I went into my research assuming that what they were saying was true, but the more I dug down into the actual facts, I discovered it was quite different.

RG: I’ve seen that early menopause claim elsewhere, too, and it would help also to explain her inability, then, to have kids with Napoleon, which then leads to — spoilers — things not working out forever between them.

SG: Exactly.

RG: So, she does join the Italian campaign, though eventually almost gets killed as part of that. That goes extremely well, though, for Napoleon, eventually, and he comes back a conquering hero.

And then, with a coup, they overthrow Barras, and my understanding is Josephine played a pretty pivotal role in keeping Barras from suspecting that he was about to get couped out of the little triumvirate that they were going to set up. How much does your trilogy go into her political role, because she does seem to be a pretty deft politician.

You talked about her as savvy and not intellectual, and that’s kind of what you want to be, as a palace-intrigue knife-fighter.

SG: She was actually very on top of things. A very modern woman in that respect. She was a good lobbyist, and a very skillful hostess, who could please people in the ways that they wanted to be pleased.

RG: Yeah. And so, then Napoleon gets brought into this kind of three-person government, and the other two kind of think he’s going to be just a sword that will give them the power to take over the revolution. And, obviously, everybody knows how badly they underestimated that, and it doesn’t take him too long to take over entirely.

And so, for a while, he’s first consul, then, eventually, he’s emperor. And it feels to me like Josephine, the entire time, was pretty miserable, despite how good she was at the ceremonial parts of her job.

What’s your understanding of finally getting to the mountaintop of the world, and finding it just completely psychically hollow?

SG: She wrote in a letter to her daughter that she wasn’t made for such grandeur. She was a very down-to-earth woman, really, and I think she was very unhappy in all that was taking place.

She was very loyal to Napoleon. I mean, she wanted to stay at his side, and nothing was stopping him. But she was also unhappy because of what was going on. As Napoleon rose in power, and as she failed to give him an heir, which was really an important thing, in order to secure the peace.

And I think it was believed that she was aging prematurely, probably because of this early menopause. And then Napoleon started wandering, he started having affairs. And so that was very difficult for her.

RG: And very public ones, right? Like, with famous actresses.

SG: Yes, exactly, so it wasn’t easy. It was difficult, in spite of the fact that they continued to be very close as a couple. There are very few couples that are famous throughout history, and they are one. You’ve got Anthony and Cleopatra, you’ve got Josephine and Napoleon. 

RG: And so, for people who are going to watch the movie, maybe they want to hit pause on this for now, but talk a little bit about how their marriage finally falls apart.

SG: It all has to do with her inability to conceive a child. And that’s hard for us to understand, but it’s not that difficult to understand if you look at the situation in France.

France was this rogue country that was embracing equality, and they were surrounded by monarchies. And of course, that concept is… they were at war with every neighbor; let’s put it that way. Not necessarily on France’s side, but they were being attacked on all sides.

So, the only way for a peace treaty to hold weight would be for Napoleon to have an heir. Because the feeling was, okay, they make a peace agreement with Napoleon, but what happens if he dies? Then who’s going to honor that peace treaty? That was part of the belief that it had to be a generational thing that was going to hold.

So, the job of an empress is to provide a child and heir for the throne, and she was unable to do that. And so, it was very hard on both of them. It was a sacrifice that they felt that they were making for the good of their country. And they thought they would continue; he would marry and find a young woman who would give him an heir. And they would continue to have a close friendship-relationship, that’s how they saw it.

Well, the new wife of Napoleon, she didn’t go along with his vision. 

RG: Shockingly.

SG: Yes.

RG: Who could have seen that coming?

But not terribly long after that, relative to the stretch of his rule, was when he falls.

SG: Yes, after they divorce. Napoleon called Josephine his “lucky star,” and I think, because of this prediction, Josephine felt that there was something of destiny in their relationship. And also, that his soldiers thought she was his lucky star, that while they were together, he was lucky. And, after they divorced, he stopped being lucky on the battlefield.

So, it’s very interesting, because Napoleon, when he would interview generals or someone for a military position, his question would be, are you lucky? So, luck was, really, an interesting thing to look at, when you look at it from their perspective.

RG: Yeah. So, after Paris falls and Napoleon capitulates, Czar Nicholas actually winds up having an audience with Josephine. They wander around her estate, which you can still tour in Paris now. What was it called? Malmaison?

SG: Malmaison, yeah. It’s beautiful.

RG: This is just another thing that’s wild about it, it was one of the most important horticultural centers in the early development of that field, and people have talked about her as making real contributions to the field of horticulture, bringing over so many species from the Caribbean and having them thrive there.

So, she takes this walk with Czar Nicholas around her kind of compound there, and falls ill. I’ve heard people say that [during] that walk out in the cold, she was already feeling sick and she really shouldn’t have done it, and that likely contributed to her dying shortly after that. But it seemed like they got along quite well.

SG: They did. She was such a charming woman, and that was part of what she contributed in her marriage. With Napoleon, he was the gruff guy who had no soft edges; except with babies, he liked them. I mean, they played bad cop / good cop, in a way.

But anyway, yes, the Czar really was enchanted by Josephine, because she was enchanting.

RG: Spending so much time researching Josephine, what kind of impression do you come away with when it comes to Napoleon?

SG: Well, you mentioned Andrea Stewart’s book. We met in London and talked about all the research we were doing, and we both confessed to having a crush on Napoleon.

RG: Oh, wild. Because the more I read about him, the more he seems like a nutty psychopath. But I can also see some of that. Where do you and Andrea come up with that space for that crush?

SG: Well, you never had to question where he was coming from. He was so direct, and so open. You know, I’ve since done research into Louis XIV, and he was a man born to be king, and he was always behind a mask, whereas Napoleon was never … He was very candid, in fact, to a fault. And he was extremely witty.

I mean, he would thrive in this day of the 40-character tweets. 

RG: He’d be a great Twitter poster.

SG: Oh, his amazing one-liners are just fantastic. And he was a man of ideals. He liked to think of himself as Alexander the Great, not as Attila the Hun. And he freed the Jews in the countries that he invaded. He believed that you had to have a well-educated populace for democracy to work. He was a smart man, but he was also playful. Like, he and Josephine were playful. He was a good father.

There’s a lot to be said about Napoleon. He did do terrible things, and most of these things happened after the divorce, in my opinion.

RG: There you go.

Talk a little bit before you go about your next book that you have coming, because it seems to flow out of the same themes, in some ways. 

SG: I like writing biographical historical fiction, which means that I write books about people, historical people. And, right now, I’m writing a young adult novel about Elizabeth Tudor, so I’ve crossed the channel over to England.

And she’s 14, and she’s bright as a whip, and she’s quite a charming, amazing young woman. And she becomes Queen Elizabeth I, but not after battling … I mean, she was imprisoned by her sister, and all sorts of terrible things.

RG: Well, I’m looking forward to that one. And thank you so much for joining me, I very much appreciate it.

SG: Oh, it’s been a pleasure.

RG: That was Sandra Gulland. She’s a novelist who has published six books, including a trilogy of novels based on the life of Josephine Bonaparte. They’re called “The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B.,” “Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe.” And, finally, “The Last Great Dance on Earth.”

And you also wrote, you told me, a young adult novel about her daughter, Hortense.

SG: Yes, “The Game of Hope.”

RG: Check that one out, too.

Deconstructed is a production of The Intercept. Our producer is José Olivares. Our supervising producer is Laura Flynn. The show is mixed by William Stanton. Legal review by David Bralow, although I think we’ll be okay with the legal review on this one. Leonardo Faierman transcribed this episode. Our theme music was composed by Bart Warshaw. Roger Hodge is the Intercept’s Editor-in-Chief. And I’m Ryan Grim, D.C. Bureau Chief of The Intercept.

If you’d like to support our work, go to theintercept.com/give. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to the show so you can hear it every week. And please go and leave us a rating or review, it helps people find the show.

If you want to give us additional feedback, email us at podcasts@theintercept.com, or at Ryan.Grim@theintercept.com. Put “Deconstructed” in the subject line, otherwise we might miss your message.

Sandra, how could people reach you, if they wanted to?

SG: Oh, I’m all over the social media. Practically everything.

RG: Excellent. All right. Well, I’ll see you guys soon.

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