I confess at the start that I'm not a Napoleon fan. Perhaps that makes it mean more that I found this fictionized account of his relations with his mother and his family fascinating and absorbing reading. Madame Letizia Bonaparte was one of history's great women; to her, her second living son, Napoleon, was never First Consul, never Emperor, scarcely even a General. He was always her intractable, difficult, brilliant, erratic son, not attractive in appearance, except when he smiled, not as brilliant as her favorite, Lucien, nor as stable as her dull Joseph. When he was in trouble, she stood by him; at other times, she alone controlled him, if only momentarily. He adored her -- was jealous and bitter and generous in turns. And it is through her story, as she faces widowhood and a large family, and sees them through a stormy history, that the reader comes to know them as rarely, in books that are, perhaps, more profound scholarship. Marjorie Coryn has breathed fresh vigor into a story that never quite stales. She's made it good history, good biography, and above all, good reading. Perhaps the selling slant is that here is the inside story of another ruthless conqueror, of another period of storm-torn worlds, made timely and human and real. Sell it to anyone who wants (a) a book not about the war; (b) good biographical-historical fiction. The publishers are backing it as their big book.