Cover Image: The Game of Hope

The Game of Hope

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Completely forgot I had requested this one and clearly I'm late on submitting feedback. This was a decent historical fiction novel, but it didn't capture my attention like I'd hoped.
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The Game of Hope is a young adult novel about Napoleon Bonaparte's step-daughter Hortense de Beauharnais. When I began reading, I knew next to nothing about Hortense. Unlike the legends surrounding Bonaparte and Josephine, Hortense's story is hardly known. The pacing of the story was very slow and it took a long time to get through, but it has its charms. After the revolution, Hortense is attempting to adjust to her new life as Bonaparte's step-daughter while trying to become an accomplished young woman in school. Her story is not unlike the lives of most teenage girls. 
I would recommend The Game of Hope for a middle grade audience rather than for a young adult audience.
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A historical book. A historical book about France. An historical book about France and a girl in a boarding school. Was there any doubt that I would love this? Any at all? I didn't think so. The French Revolution was the first period in history that I fell in love with - and it's arguably the one that began my journey to study history in university in the first place. So why on Earth didn't I study it more? Technically because my school didn't offer any classes that went into depth about it, but I'm still bitter.

The first thing that appealed to me was the cover - I absolutely adore covers that are painted in an old style such as this one. I'm a huge fan of the history of art, so if there is one thing that will encourage me to pick up a book, an art-inspired cover will do that. All of the characters are lovely and I fell in love with them so fast. There was just something about the personalities of the girls at the Institute that I feel we would have been great friends. Hortense was a really relatable protagonist - you could feel her internal struggles with what is expected of her, and what her heart wants - which are often two very different things. It was interesting to see her relationship with her mother, the wife of Napoleon, and Napoleon himself. One of the things I liked best about her journey was her joy in the composition of music. I do wish that there was more written about it. Passion for music seemed to be the one thing that kept Hortense sane, and it is such a shame that she kept it hidden from most.

This book really has some good secondary characters as well, especially the girls at the Institute. I especially liked the relationship growth between Hortense and Caroline, and thus Caroline and the rest of the girls. Sometimes there is only a small but stubborn bump in the way of friendship, and they overcame it to become great companions. Their relationship with the men also felt sweet and genuine. When Hortense is eventually reunited with her brother Eugene, I loved their banter with each other. You could tell they loved the other and really looked out for them. Of course, it helps that Eugene is close friends with Christophe, the subject of Hortense's heart. I really enjoyed following along with her journey trying to get Christophe to realise she exists as more than just his friend's little sister, and I really thought they would end up together. It breaks my heart to know that they did not. Their relationship really does blossom into something beautiful, even if it may not seem so - but then again, you must remember this is post-Revolutionary France, where relationships had a very different form than they do today. Neverthless, even though Christophe fills the mind of Hortense for the better part of the book, it is not an overwhelming romance. It is instead simply a part of who Hortense is, and in combination with what is expected of a young woman in this period. She is lucky enough to have had someone she liked and could properly pursue - which is why it is so disappointing to find out that after the book ends, she is forced into an unhappy marriage with another, as per Napoleon's wishes. 

Napoleon also becomes an interesting character in this book - but not so much of his own merit, but because of his relationship with others. There is a little bit of naivety with the majority of the characters here regarding what Napoleon's actual role is within France. It's clear what his position is, but as far for what that means for others below their standing, it is not elaborated upon. Because of this, Napoleon doesn't really seem like a bad character at all. Boring, yes, but his commanding side is not particularly elaborated upon. As much as I am a bit disappointed that we gloss over that, I do not think that the rest of the qualities of the book would have blossomed so much if Napoleon and his actions were given any more attention. Even the Reign of Terror, while mentioned many times within the book and is in fact, the way that Hortense lost her own father, is a bit glossed over regarding how terrible it was for the people of France. However, the effect of the book's relationships would not be as significant if that were the case. Sometimes, to tell a certain story, other aspects of it must be diminished, and in this case, I don't mind terribly. One of the most beautiful relationships is between Hortense and her Maîtresse, her teacher. It was one of such love and care, and so much more compassion and concern that I have seen in historical novels. Having stemmed from a real relationship (most of the letters that Maîtresse writes are the actual letters simply translated from French), it made the relationship on the pages seem that much more real and genuine.

The thing that I do like about this book is that there is not really a specified timeline for it. There is no real definite beginning to Hortense's story, and there is no real ending. It flows really nicely this way. It especially makes the relationships work better, as you can slowly piece together the intensity of some relationships, and how they evolve over the course of the novel. Even at the end, when it feels like it may end rather abruptly because there is no build-up to it, you get the feeling that Hortense's story continues past the last page. There is no big event that causes the end of the book, and I really prefer that kind of ending.

The sad part is of course, the afterward, that tells you Hortense and Christophe never get to pursue their relationship. She is forced to marry someone who she never gets along with, and has a rather miserable life to follow. Ém at the very least eventually does come to care for her husband. Caroline perhaps has the happiest ending, for she was the one most pleased with her marriage to begin with. Mouse, rather tragically, does not. Neither does Josephine, really, eventually abandoned by Napoleon. Because so much happens before this book begins and continues to happen after it ends, you really get the idea that this novel is but a mere glimpse into the lives of its characters - especially since you don't really see the outcome of some of the events in the novel until after it finishes. Sometimes you can even pretend that the afterward, if unfortunate, doesn't exist at all. In that case, Hortense and her friends have a bright and beautiful future ahead of them. If only history were so kind.
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She writes an adult series about Josephine Napoleon and this is a YA book focused on Josephine's daughter, Hortense. I thought it was well done and engaging by the end, but felt longer than it is. Likely better for young YA readers.
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This is my second novel by Sandra Gulland and her first venture into YA, fitting as Hortense is a young adult herself.  

This is the first time reading anything about Hortense and I quite enjoyed it.  To get glimpses of the final years of the Revolution, though the eyes of the young, added that extra emotional element, it wasn't hard to feel empathy for what they went through.  The scars left were not always the physical ones.  Hortense didn’t ask to be stepdaughter of the famous Bonaparte but that was her lot in life. She is only 15 years old and has already experienced so much, her character was well-developed with memories and guilt of the past, along with a future not always of her choosing.

It’s definite from past books by this author that she has done an enormous amount of research into this time, based on actual events she stayed true to history. 

The Game of Hope is a book that I was sad to see end, I would like to know where the next chapter in her life takes her (a sequel would be nice).

Thank you to the publisher (via Netgalley) for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for honest review.
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I enjoyed this book so much that I've read it twice already!  Being a fan of the Josephine B trilogy, I have been anticipating this novel from Ms. Gulland.  Her tale about the life of Josephine's teen aged daughter Hortense and her recovery in the wake of the French Revolution is both realistic and poignant.  Room mates, letters home, teenage crushes and innocence brought it to life for me.  I especially enjoyed the way the Leonormand Cards were woven throughout the novel.  I've purchased a deck to play the Game of Hope myself!
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Loved this read! It had me hooked! I really enjoyed the story line, and the historical feel it gave me, love books that are around this era
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Sandra Gulland demonstrates a masterful grasp that she has on history in her book The Game of Hope. While some authors struggle to convince their audience that they are educated in history and to fully immerse their readers in their story, Gulland has no problem displaying her understanding of post-revolution France and therefore invites her readers into a well developed universe of Hortense de Beauharnais. 

This book is well written for younger audiences of teenage girls, connecting them to the past with common issues that all preteen girls face in a timeless fashion. Gullard does not pump Hortense's 1780 mind full of 2017 ideas, which is a genuinely refreshing change to the typical YA historical novel. Gullard's form of writing was somewhat beneath what I would expect would appeal to young, preteen girls, opting for a more simple approach rather than a well-crafted literary route. However, for most preteen girls, this is still a wonderful introduction to history through the eyes of someone just like them, who truly lived, breathed, thought and felt in the same ways that they do.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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3/5

i did enjoy this book I absolutely love historical fiction and I don't normally read anything set during the French Revolution so this was new to me. The author did a good job depicting history and the way things were done during this time period. The characters we get to know were likable like Hortense and her girlfriends. Then there are quite a few other characters we only get glimpses of like Napoleon Bonaparte and Hortense's mother Josephine

When reading the book I felt as though the story just skipped a bunch of stuff you would be reading one chapter during say November and then it would skip to May with nothing happening in between. Which at time made me feel very disconnected from the characters. 

It was interesting to get a glimpse in Hortrense de Beauharnais young adult life and the trials and tribulations she faced as a teenage girl during 1798. The story was based on her autobiography.

I was sent a copy for review via Netgalley
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