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Our Bookish Lives: The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte

Melissa Eisenmeier

Awhile back, I came across an old thread in a Goodreads group I’m in for historical fiction fans. The group was discussing The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte, a book about a real person named Betsy Patterson Bonaparte, by Ruth Chatlien Hull. My interest was piqued because it was set in my hometown, but you rarely hear people around here talk about Betsy, so I bought it for myself.

Betsy Patterson Bonaparte was the Paige Hilton (or whatever the heck her name is) of 1812: Slightly famous when she was alive, well-to-do, a socialite. Betsy was the daughter of a prominent, wealthy merchant who had a local park named after him, although I’m not sure the locals know the history of Patterson Park. She even married Jerome Bonaparte, and there was a huge scandal when his brother, Napoleon, made them get the marriage annulled.

While I found Betsy to be slightly spoiled, I still found the book enjoyable. I thought it was interesting reading about what America was like in the post-Revolutionary War decades, and Betsy was somewhat relatable.


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