The Game of Hope by Sandra Gulland

The Game of Hope

Sandra Gulland

Set in Paris 1798 and inspired by Hortense de Beauharnais' real-life autobiography, The Game of Hope is a story of a girl destined to play a role she didn’t want during the French Revolution.

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For Napoleon's stepdaughter, nothing is simple - especially love.

Paris, 1798. Hortense de Beauharnais is engrossed in her studies at a boarding school for aristocratic girls, most of whom have suffered tragic losses during the tumultuous days of the French Revolution. She loves to play and compose music, read and paint, and daydream about Christophe, her brother's dashing fellow officer. But Hortense is not an ordinary girl. Her beautiful, charming mother, Josephine, has married Napoleon Bonaparte, soon to become the most powerful man in France, but viewed by Hortense at the outset as a coarse, unworthy successor to her elegant father, who was guillotined during the Terror.

Where will Hortense's future lie? it may not be in her power to decide.

Inspired by Hortense's real-life autobiography with charming glimpses of life long ago, this is the story of a girl destined by fate to play a role she didn't choose.

Advance Galley Reviews

I really loved the role that history played in this book and loved the overall character development and subject matter. It was compulsively readable and I enjoyed learning about this period in time. I would like to see more history written in this format. I think the YA crowd could really use these to learn and be more drawn into the past. Thanks for the ARC, First to Read.

A thoughtful that focuses on just telling the story about a person in history, much of it is based in fact where history is not getting altered to fit the story. There’s nothing spectacular about the story of the girl and her early life shortly after the reign of terror that took so many lives during the French Revolution. Moreover, it reflects on her life during this time, how hard it was for her to adapt to all these sudden changes, a new father, and a new France, so different from the one she knew growing up. It is a very personal story being told here, about a person many people do not know. Sure, everyone knows about Napoleon, but how many people know about the women in his life? To read and learn something new about history is enthralling, and this novel delivers that without drooling on. The story does not deter much from the real history. There are slight changes here and there, much of these changes involve just annexing people who had no real impact on her life. Too many people can clutter a story, and the focus is just about the girls who had a direct impact on her life during this time. Again, these are just minor changes that don’t alter the actual history of the story, which is excellent. Liberties are always welcome, but once a writer begins to change significant aspects, it is no longer historical fiction, it is just fiction based on history. It takes a considerable amount of love, devotion, and willpower to keep a story on the straight and narrow. One has to be faithful to history and the people in it, to respectfully tell a story, and it is clear that Gulland has all of those qualities when it comes to writing. Her story flows, it has character and brings the people to life with love and respect in this novel. The way in which Gulland brings Hortense to life makes her so incredibly relatable. What makes Hortense so captivating is the idea that during this time, she has dreams that are bigger than what her time would allow. Moreover, yet, she does not stop dreaming. Hortense wants to be a composer, not just a daughter, a wife, or mother. She want’s to break barriers, and with the love and support from her new family, she does. It is incredible to see the transition and growth on her part, to go from a daughter staring in, haunted by the past, to a girl who holds her head up, finding that her new life offers her up so many opportunities in love and life. Once again, it is a slow story, and it offers nothing extravagant as far as the story is concerned, but it captures the essence of the period. It is not just a story about a girl; it is about the time; it is about the people whose lives she touched and about the changes spurned from the revolution. That is what makes it so grand and captivating. There’s nothing outlandish, just a tale about a young girl trying to navigate through life after the horrors she witnessed. Moreover, the way in which she pulls herself out, it leaves the reader with hope.

This book was a bit different than I expected, but still an enjoyable read. I wish there was more YA historical fiction. I think this book did a nice job portraying the time period and the challenges people faced from a young person's perspective. All in all, an enjoyable read that makes me interested in reading more books set in Napoleon's time period. There were moments that I found the plot to be a bit too light, but reminded myself it is YA historical fiction not an in-depth look at things. An entertaining read.

It interesting to see YA historical fiction on a real life historical figure. I did have some gripes with it though; the writing felt amateurish, the chapters are a bit choppy and the fact it comes off with a bit of unnecessary fluff. Other than that, it's a pretty light read. 3 stars

Grade: D+ The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: I always hope I'll love historical fiction, particularly when it's about someone close to famous figures. A thin line has to be walked, though, when the main character is a real person, and I don't think The Game of Hope handled that line well. Things that Hortense would be familiar with were either over-explained or not explained well enough. There were a lot of characters from the very beginning, and I had trouble keeping them all straight. I also found the narrative voice to be VERY young and simplistic. Of course, I don't like overly complex or flowery prose, either, but the voice felt too young for a book that likely won't appeal to younger readers. Furthermore, I couldn't figure out where the plot was going, due to choppy chapter endings and scenes that felt like they didn't have a point. The Verdict: Not really worth your time, in my opinion, which is a shame because there needs to be more YA historical fiction.

I love reading historical fiction because there's always something new to learn from it. I was so caught up in the story and found it so interesting because it had the perfect amount of drama and romance. I was so surprised with the ending, certainly I would've wanted to know more about what happened with the Hortense reaching adulthood, because what is mentioned in the afterword wasn't enough for me.

This book was a somewhat fictionalized account of Hortense de Beauharnais earlier years. Although a bit fluffy at times, I enjoyed the book it made me want to learn more about some of the historical figures that were featured within. The inserts at the back were a plus.

Overall, this was a good book. It was a light YA historical fiction read, and because of this, it was filled with the petty thoughts and details of a young teenager. This part was less relatable to me, and had me rolling my eyes during some passages. However, I did find myself looking up historical details and tidbits about the historical figures that this book touched upon, which helped to draw me into the story a bit more.

I have enjoyed Sandra Gulland's past books and had very high hopes for this one - it was different from what I was expecting, but still very enjoyable. The narrator is Hortense de Beauharnais, Josephine's daughter from her first marriage, before Napoleon. It reads like a coming of age story, more than a classic historical fiction novel - a teenage girl adjusts to her mother's new marriage and her haunting memories of her late father - only the stepfather in question is on the verge of becoming Emperor of France. Gulland addresses crises global and personal, large and small, as significant, whether Hortense is dealing with the trauma of her father's death or boarding-school friendship intrigues. The story feels abruptly finished at the end - there is so much more to tell, and I hope Gulland takes up her pen again to do so, as she did with her Josephine trilogy.

I wanted to like this book. I usually really enjoy historical fiction, but this book fell flat for me. I kind of feel like reading this book would be like reading Rob Kardashian's memoir if he was only famous because his mother married Bruce (now Caitlyn) Jenner. And I may have been more forgiving of the book if I'd remembered while reading it that it was based on Hortense's actual autobiography, but at the same time, I feel like I'd probably just rather read her autobiography. What I found in this story was a main character who is just completely full of herself. Sure, she implies that she gets so much satisfaction from helping others, especially the younger girls at her school, but it comes across like a person bragging about feeding the homeless or donating to charity. In addition to seeming full of herself, Hortense comes across as incredibly sanctimonious. She takes issue with her cousin Em because Em doesn't love her husband and while he's away at war, Em flirts with one of Napoleon's brothers. Meanwhile Hortense was scheming to try and get closer to a certain aide for Napoleon because she had a crush on him. She wanted to marry for love and couldn't understand why her cousin wasn't thrilled about her arranged marriage. There were just so many things about Hortense's attitude that rubbed me the wrong way and I just don't like her. And it's really hard to enjoy a book told from the main character's POV when you don't like the main character. In spite of my distaste for Hortense, there were some aspects of the story that I found intriguing. I found myself excited for scenes with her music instructor, Citoyen Jadin, kind of hoping that something would blossom there. I also found the family drama between Hortense's mother and the Bonapartes mildly interesting (but I enjoy reality tv so that's not too surprising). Overall I give The Game of Hope 2.674 stars.

I received an advanced copy of this book from First to Read in exchange for an honest review. This was my first time reading an YA historical fiction book. I don't usually read historical fiction but the description sounded interesting so I thought I'd give it a try. This book did not disappoint. It was interesting reading information about the Napoleonic Age from the perspective of a young girl.

This is the first novel I've read by Sandra Gulland and it won't be the last! I truly enjoyed the YA historical fiction that she created with this book. I don't normally read books from the Napoleonic Age, but was very interested in this book as it told the story from the perspective of Napoleon's stepdaughter, Hortense. I don't want to give any spoilers away so I won't say too much more, but it was a great read!

I forced myself to finish this story. Many scenes seemed pointless. Once I reached the 3/4 mark I read with more interest. I know the author put a lot into this story but I couldn't feel for any of the characters. I kept thinking how will this end. And it was satisfying. Also there are historical facts and information at the end which tied up much of the story.

The opening of The Game of Hope almost reads like Jane Eyre's youth. A boarding school of girls with a self-proclaimed feisty narrator. Hortense has a family, however. Her mother is married to Napoleon Bonaparte, which thrusts her future out of her hands. The author is researched extensively and it shows in the details and the end notes. The story doesn't have a satisfying end but Gulland adds the details of Hortense's life. Overall, an interesting read that will entice historical fiction fans.

The Game of Hope opens in 1798,. France is in shambles four years after Robespierre was executed. Our narrator is in a boarding school full of nobility who fear that it (The Terror) could happen. I will admit to my ignorance of this time period, but Sandra Gulland navigated this potential gap in her reader's knowledge by providing a very brief historical note at the beginning of the novel to give them the required information.  The story follows Hortense, the stepdaughter of Napoleon Bonaparte, during her final year at The Institute -- a finishing school that houses a number of orphaned and/or traumatized children of nobility following the Terror. The characters are rich and come alive on the page, and I found myself caring for each of them deeply. I appreciated the discussion of difficult topics surrounding that period, including the slave trade (and the differences between the American and French views pertaining to "freedom"), arranged marriage versus romantic love, and a woman's "place." Despite the time-frame, I found the writing and central characters to have a feminist spirit. This novel is a coming of age tale, but it is about more than hope, growing up, and young love. It is about living after a political nightmare, the trauma, of moving on and covers the brief period of time between the Revolution and the Napoleonic Periods through a character-driven perspective of the events. The book is very well researched and I really appreciated the historical commentary at the end of the book describing what was from the historical record. I was a bit put off by the abrupt ending and although I was happy to see those gaps filled in from a historical standpoint, I wish the narrative just didn't end.  Thank you First to Read for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Following Hortense starting in the schoolroom in The Game of Hope adds to the time after the Napoleon took his place in history. Sandra Gulland took this interesting period of history and put a girls finishing school point of view with bits of older intrigue scattered throughout. I was continuing to find time to finish as my attention was grabbed from the start. Thank You First to Read for this copy.

I love YA literature and I love historical fiction, so I had high hopes for this book. While I do think this was an interesting story about Hortense and the way her personal life intersected with pivotal moments in French history, the narrative felt a little lacking to me. I struggled to get a handle on Hortense's personality. At times, she describes herself as a firebrand, but then she often seemed passive and unwilling to confront people about various issues (especially her mother). The book was extremely well-researched and I appreciated the reliance on Hortense's real autobiography, which certainly gave the book more historical accuracy, but I sometimes felt that the author chose to include details and facts at the expense of the flow of the story. Overall, an interesting read, but not the most gripping or compelling YA historical fiction I've read.

I love historical fiction, and this book was so well written! Learning about different events in history from others' perspectives is so fun and unique. Hortense's story captivated my attention. It gave an inside look into the life of a noble girl of the time, as well as a different point of view on Napoleon. I will definitely be reading more of Sandra Gulland's books, and am glad to have discovered her work!

I love the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Era, so I was definetly excited to read this book. It's very good and interesting. I loved learning about the same time, but from someone else's point of view. I knew very little about Hortense and her life, so it was great to learn something new. I also enjoyed learning more about Josephine and Napoleon's family, especially Caroline, she seems like a pistol of a woman. It was also sad knowing that Hortense's life doesn't go exactly how she wished. This was the first book I've read by Sandra Gulland, however I'm ready to read more of her work. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, specifically when history is interwoven with fiction, like with this book. Plus, the back of the book is filled with more information that would send any history buff into a rabbit hole of googling.

Sandra Gulland has done it again! This was a lovely and engaging book and clearly well researched. I loved her Joséphine series and read it many times over. It was great to experience the story from Hortense’s eyes. I only wish it was the first in a series and we could continue on with her story.

It's a coming of age story in the late 18th/early 19th centuries when girls were expected to be married off at 16 while the boys could wait and mature into their 20's before considering marriage. A woman's reputation was all she had, and she had to guard it carefully. The story focuses on a 16 year old girl named Hortense, who is associated with a famous stepfather, Napoleon Bonaparte, with a step family that does not accept her mother, brother, or herself, and she dreams of a certain military man. Prior to the age of 16, she witnessed a tragic and terrifying time when aristocrats like her Father were arrested & beheaded. Hortense then had been housed at an academy for girls. Most people in society expected the academy to be teaching needlepoint, playing the harp and learning etiquette. But the school master wanted so much more for her girls. She wanted them to learn to be independent. How will Hortense forge through life now that she has entered the circle of adulthood? The book's history draws me in along with Hortense's character herself. Hortense is a clever and faithful girl to her friends and family. Her girlfriend's are delightful companions making a sweet trio, and her enemy, also her stepsister, is one of the worst, and it is interesting to see how Hortense deal's with her stepsister. I would have liked to see more romance develop, but alas, I did not study Hortense's past. A very good book altogether.

DNF at page 26. I really tried! I got an early copy through NetGalley and I actually used my points to guarantee a copy. I like the idea of the story so far, but the writing was something I'm finding difficulty getting past. There are a lot of parentheses used unnecessarily. The dialogue is broken with explanations in between. I think I'll come back to this book when I can listen as an audio book.

This was a hard book for me to get through, but I think it may have been a timing issue. I just haven't been reading a lot of historical fiction. I'll probably try it again in a few months and see if I like it better.

A novel by Sandra Gulland Hail and well met, old friend! What brings me to The Institute? Why, the same thing that delivered you to the door, the Little Geniuses of course. Yes, yes, the young ladies too. Some of them are very skillful musicians, you know. What? That woman who just strolled by is Marie Anne Lenormand, a fortune-teller, and a great fraud, I do assure you. That eye of hers, staring off into where I don't know, has made her fortune, if you will pardon the pun. Some think it gives her power to foretell the future. I think it gives her the power to empty the pockets of the gullible. What is the hubbub over there around that group? Oh yes, I know Headmistress Campan, but who is the other? Citiyenne Bonaparte, you say. Well, well, I have never seen our General’s wife before. A handsome woman, I must say. Who is the tall young woman standing beside her? Her daughter! You are joking, surely. Citiyenne Napoleon cannot possibly be old enough to have a daughter of twenty years? Ah, well, my eyes grow ever weaker. Only fifteen, eh? And she has a son too! Where is he? Is he here? Bon Deus, so her son is trapped in Egypt with the General and our Army! What a disaster. What is the daughter's name? Hortense de Beauharnais, eh? Ah, I think I see through your scheme, you old fox. With General Bonaparte unlikely to extricate himself from Africa you are out widow fishing! Really? Well, you are widowed, wealthy and only forty-nine, undoubtedly young and tender Citiyenne Hortense de Beauharnais will be overjoyed with your proposal of marriage. Ah, I must be off, the wife beckons. Good luck in your pursuit of that delicate beauty! This tale is a realistic look at the nation of France during the early years of Napoleon Bonaparte's rise to power. How did the General's presence affect his stepdaughter Hortense de Beauharnais? This is her story. Light and informative, author Gulland's prose gives readers the insight to see the humanity behind the mask of fame. A fine historical novel should whet the reader's appetite for further exploration of the topic, and "The Game of Hope" does that with panache. I strongly recommend this novel to lovers of history, to Francophiles and to young women in their early teens. My thanks to Viking and for providing the advance ebook galley on which I have based this review.

This was a great piece of historical fiction. I don't know a ton about French history, and it was extremely interesting to read about what life was like during the time of Napoleon. Hortense is a very well-written character here, and her relationships with everyone around her felt very believable and real. I also love that the author included a historical note at the end (although it wasn't the most uplifting thing I've ever read). For me, it adds a lot to a story to know that there is real history behind it. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who likes YA historical fiction.

Game of Hope was a lovely read and should be well received by the YA crowd. It felt at times like you were reading Hortense's personal diary. The author does a great job of portraying the characters experiencing the same joys, heartaches friendships, bullying and angst as a girl in today's modern world. Yet she also is able to show that girls living 200+ year ago were living under much more prudent expectations and harsher conditions than today's women. I love the descriptions of the period including attire, meals and desserts. The chocolate Madeleine sound devine. Most especially I enjoyed following the various relationships especially between Hortense and Caroline and Hortense and her step-father. In my opinion, this was somewhat glossed over. It would have been nice to learn even more about these relationships and also the relationship between Hortense and Emilie, both pre and post pox illness. I would give this novel a 3 out of 5 stars and would recommend it to the young adult crowd. This book was provided to me by First to Read in exchange for an honest review.

History is fascinating and entertaining, and it helps history to come alive in fiction when there is well written character development and a sense of place. The Game of Hope does well at portraying the limited options for women during this time period by listing the limitations. The reader is told what the character is feeling or is doing. The actions follow historical accuracy. I didn't feel a sense of place, even in Paris or the French countryside. I still liked the history of Game of Hope, but it felt too much like a factual timeline to me. This book was provided to me by First to Read in exchange for an honest review.

I've been trying to get back into reading historical fiction but always have a hard time finding a book that is going to keep me interested. The Game of Hope by Sandra Gulland kept me interested for sure! I felt that it was a bit too young for me at times but overall I really enjoyed the story. I thought Gulland portrayed what it's like to be a teenage girl very well. I would definitely recommend this book to young girls!

This is an absolutely stunning bit of historical fiction. The characters are emotional, compelling, and wonderful to follow on their journeys. The author clearly did the research behind the piece, and it follows a character who, while in love, does not place that aim above all her other talents - loyalty, bravery, musical composition. The author did a fantastic job of breathing more life into one of history's ignored characters.

I studied Revolutionary and Napoleonic France in college and reading this book was a nice way to refresh on some of the events that happened. This YA novel centers around Napoelon's stepdaughter, Hortense, her time at school, love of music and friendships. Hortense isn't a particularly likable character, but understanding what she went through during The Terror and the pressures placed on her as a Bonaparte family member makes up for it. The book does kind of...just end and in the afterword the author tells us what happens to everyone (for those unfamiliar with Josephine and Elba.) Overall, it was a good book though it did drag in some places. I would recommend this to those who like this time period as well as historical fiction.

I absolutely loved this look into the life of Hortense de Beauharnais, step-daughter of Napoleon, who I'm surprised I hadn't heard of before. I had learned a lot about Napoleonic France in school but mostly from the perspective of England and America and in relation to Napoleon as a general and emperor but I knew next to nothing about day to day life in France or about the women in his life. Hortense and her mother, Josephine, are portrayed as complex, multi-faceted women, with much to do outside of the famous Napoleon. (Although it was interesting to consider the oft-ridiculed emperor as a loving husband and step-father.) Gulland brought Hortense's world to life, especially in terms of the Institute and what it was like to be a student there, being taught a full, well-rounded curriculum but still with the ultimate goal of marriage. I especially enjoyed Hortense's relationship with Maitresse and her friendships with Mouse, Em, and Caroline. Gulland allowed Hortense to be a teenage girl, who giggles, enjoys sweets, and lusts after an attractive man, but also gave her a strong inner dialogue and ambition, showing us how she composed music and preformed piano even if tradition dictated she be less independently minded. Gulland did a brilliant job of weaving letters seamlessly into the story, bringing it even more to life. I enjoyed her easy to read but descriptive writing style as well as her character driven narrative. I will be on the lookout for more of her work.

The Game of Hope by Sandra Gulland DNF @ page 133 - 2 stars The Game of Hope is a YA historical fiction novel that follows Hortense de Beauharnais, Napoleon's step-daughter. Honestly, I have no clue what the plot of this novel is because the 133 pages I read were a hodgepodge of girl drama, sordid family dealings, and music. It was all very boring and I'm quite sad because I thought this was going to be a novel I would love. I do enjoy historical fiction re-imaginings and I had high expectations for this one, not absurdly high, but I thought it would be a nice YA historical fiction that would at least garner four stars. What I read only garners 2 stars. It's not bad, but it is bland and drab. This book lacks substance, life, and vitality. It feels like it wants to be dramatic and over the top, but is bogged down by Gulland's disconnected writing style. The style has no passion and it left me feeling so disconnected from the story and the characters. Historical fiction has to be fierce and passionate because it is recreating the past and presenting a multitude of characters. I cared about no one and was interested in no plot. I am so sad that this wasn't a new favorite. Whimsical Writing Scale: 2 The main female character is Hortense. She is bland, but she does have a drive for composing music, which is an interesting passion. However, her actions in the last chapter towards her friend, Mouse, in revealing the truth behind her mother's death was very cruel and it left a sour taste in my mouth. I was over this novel by that point, but her cruelty and it being swept under the rug so easily was just the nail on the coffin for this novel. Kick-Butt Heroine Scale: 1.5 There are a multitude of characters and I can't be bothered with any of them. The drama is petty and manages to be uninteresting. There is also some weird romantic subplot with Jaydin, her music teacher, and I just wasn't feeling it or interested in it. Basically, I couldn't be bothered and found there to be too many characters and not enough development to hold my interest. Character Scale: 2 Overall, I do think The Game of Hope will be a favorite for many fans of the Napoleonic period. I was sadly disappointed by this book and did not finish it. I don't regret my decision to DNF this novel because I feel like I would've probably ended up disliking it even more by the end of the novel. Plotastic Scale: 2 Cover Thoughts: I love this cover so much. The art is stunning. Thank you, First to Read and Viking Books (Penguin), for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

This was an enjoyable work of YA historical fiction. The addition of an extensive glossary and explanation of characters would be very useful for a young reader not already familar with this portion of the Napoleonic period. It was an easy, pleasant read.

I enjoyed reading 'The Game of Hope,' and would recommend it to a fellow historical fiction fan. Gulland did a lovely job of weaving subtle, though very interesting, historical tidbits (describing in detail the contents of meals, habits of fashion, and limitations of gender present in late eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century France) throughout the story. The fact that many of the letters in the story are duplicates of actual historical documents is very intriguing. While I enjoyed the book, however, I must admit that the story did seem to drag quite a bit until the last quarter or so. If you find yourself feeling the same way, keep reading! The follow-up provided by the author at the end is worth it.

This is a wonderful book to read if you already like historical fiction. While maybe not as emotional as Queen of someday, for example, there is a sort of raw simplicity to this book that makes it a nice Sunday read. The author takes time to include a glossary and character cheat sheet, so this would be a good gift to a student just entering this book's reading level.

This would not let me download it. Tried multiple ways. Going to deactivate account and try making a new one.

This book was fantastic! I loved every single part of it. Being in the historical genre I was worried I wouldn't connect with it and understand everything but the Author did an amazing job of explaining and helping you feel as if you were right there with the characters. I went into this knowing very little about France and Napoleon except for the little I learned throughout my world history classes in High School. I especially liked the incorporation of the letters which I was surprised to see at the end are actual letters written by the real people that are portrayed in this story. (Although some of it was embellished.) A great read and I would highly recommend it. I was provided an ARC of this book by Penguin Random House for an unbiased review.


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