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The Last Great Dance on Earth

The Last Great Dance on Earth

A Novel

  • reading group guide
The Last Great Dance on Earth is the triumphant final volume of Sandra Gulland's beloved trilogy based on the life of Josephine Bonaparte. When the novel opens, Josephine and Napoleon have been married for four tumultuous years. Napoleon is Josephine's great love, and she his. But their passionate union is troubled from within, as Josephine is unable to produce an heir, and from without, as England makes war against France and Napoleon's Corsican clan makes war against his wife. Through Josephine's heartfelt diary entries, we witness the personal betrayals and political intrigues that will finally drive them apart, culminating in Josephine's greatest tragedy: her divorce from Napoleon and his exile to Elba. The Last Great Dance on Earth is historical fiction on a grand scale and the stirring conclusion to an unforgettable love story.
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  • Touchstone | 
  • 384 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743213592 | 
  • January 2002
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: In which peace seems an impossible dream

March 2, 1800 -- Tuileries Palace, Paris.

"Josephine...Come see the moon."

I woke with a start. A man was nudging my shoulder, his face illuminated by candlelight. "Bonaparte, it's you," I said, clasping his hand. I'd been dreaming of home, of my beautiful Martinico, dreaming of the sea. But I was not on a tropical island. I was in the dank, opulent palace, in the bed of Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI -- the bed of the dead. I pressed Bonaparte's fingers against my cheek. "What time is it?"

"Almost three. Come outside with... see more

Reading Group Guide

The Last Great Dance on Earth
Discussion Points
1. "It is the season of renewal, yet I remain barren -- in spite of love, in spite of prayers," Josephine writes in her diary as The Last Great Dance on Earth opens. Her longing to conceive a child with Napoleon is one of the central themes of the story. Compare Josephine's frustrations with their childlessness with Napoleon's. How does Napoleon's attitude toward the need for a male heir change over the course of the novel?
2. When Napoleon first tells Josephine that his advisers recommend a hereditary system of succession, believing it would put an end to the constant threats against his life, Napoleon is careful to assure Josephine that he is insisting on his right to adopt one of his brothers' sons as his heir. Do you think the whole course of history would have been different and Napoleon and Josephine would have remained married had Little Napoleon, the much loved nephew he planned to make his heir, lived? Why or why not?
3. After one of Napoleon's flings, Josephine decides to make him "pay" by purchasing expensive clothes and baubles. Is Sandra Gulland lending support to the portrait of Josephine as a spendthrift that some historians have put forth, or is she making you think about why she might have spent so much? This is a minor example of how Sandra Gulland uses story and character to question existing interpretations of historical facts. How does this minor example make y see more

About the Author

Sandra Gulland
Photo Credit:

Sandra Gulland

Sandra Gulland is the author of Mistress of the Sun; The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B.; Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe; and The Last Great Dance on Earth. She lives in Killaloe, Ontario, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

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