I get the most wonderful mail. Here’s one:
I hope this email finds you well. My name is Kristin and just this past week, I have just finished reading your Josephine B. trilogy. I read all three books within a week and wanted to let you know of the impact your writing has made on me.
You see, I am planning a celebratory trip to Paris this fall with my mother. Paris has always been a city that has intrigued me, mostly for the tragic and romantic notions that surround it. Over the past several months, I have been conducting research on the places that we would like to visit. It is very easy to become overwhelmed, due to the city’s rich history that contains so much allure, stories, and sights. I honestly didn’t know where to begin. Once I did begin, I became lost very quickly in choices, guidebooks, travel websites, reviews, etc.
A friend, after hearing of my travel plans, recommended your books. The timing could not have been more perfect. As I was reading your books, I found myself keeping my laptop right by my side. I have probably used Google and Wikipedia more in the past week than I have in the past year. Without realizing it, I have given myself a “mini-education” on various aspects of the French Revolution and of course, Josephine and Napoleon. My next order of business is to read as much as possible on that time period, using many of your recommendations (from your website).
Our trip in the fall now has a better sense of purpose, as we will plan to visit many of the sites from the novels. I am particularly drawn to Malmaison, and hope to spend some time there during our visit. I plan on giving the first book in the series to my mother this weekend, I’m sure she will be just as charmed as I was.
I just wanted to express my thanks for your wonderful work. I am very much looking forward to buying your other books. I should probably save one for the airplane ride but I know that the temptation to read it right away will be too great!
Kristin and her mother will be celebrating two milestone birthdays together: she will be turning 30, and her mother 60. I can’t imagine a lovelier celebration.
Be sure to try to see David’s The Coronation of Napoleon in the Louvre, Kristin: the room it’s in is not open for viewing every day, so you have to find out when to go. It’s well worth it. I wept when I last saw it.
Enjoy Malmaison! And thank you so much for writing.
Readers: what places have you traveled to after reading about it in a book?
Kristin, I am on my own Napoleonic mission and just returned from Paris and Corsica this past week. I’ve visited Paris a dozen times before, but I found that the Napoleonic focus of this trip added extra interest to each day. We ran into few Americans since it was off-season, but as I browsed through books in the shop inside the Arc de Triomphe, an American woman asked me, “Had I read the Sandra Gulland books?” For other ideas on Napoleon sites, check my website, http://www.findingnapoleon.com.
Wonderful site, Margaret. I never got to Corsica. Tant pis! Bon courage on your novel. Napoleon’s POV would be both lively and challenging. What a guy.
What a lovely letter! I can definitely relate: I reread JoB before my last trip to France in 2007 and love that extraordinary feeling of familiarity a great book can give a place. The closest comparison, I think, is visiting the place of your ancestors – basically being somewhere than means something to someone to whom you feel connected. Evelyne Lever’s biography of Marie A did the same.
Slightly more sober, but incredibly compelling, was the experience of reading ‘A Women in Berlin’ by Anonymous before visiting that city.
Sorry misspelled, ‘A Woman in Berlin’.
Thank you, Mariska — I made your change to the title, A Woman in Berlin. I wish I had known about it before visiting Berlin a few years ago. I still often think of that amazing city.
Ms. Gulland– Did that Google Lit Trip you were working on go anywhere? I haven’t heard about it in a while, and I’m going to Paris this summer and next summer, and I would love it if there was some sort of list of places from the Josephine books that I could use to take myself on my own sort of tour! Nothing better than having a visual, personal link to the stories that have entertained me for years! I’ll have to use that as an excuse to reread the books yet again <3
Sarah, two summers in Paris: heavenly!
The Google Lit Trip is still a work in progress, largely because I got swept up writing the novel I’m working on now. When it’s out of my hands I’ll leap back into the Lit Trip. But for now, read the “Book Clubs Travel” page on my website:
Be sure to scroll down to the end where there are two good travel books recommended, as well.