A simply written, sturdy addition to the groaning Napoleon shelves.

THE INVISIBLE EMPEROR

NAPOLEON ON ELBA FROM EXILE TO ESCAPE

A history of Napoleon’s short first exile, rendered in short, punchy chapters.

The Treaty of Fontainebleau exiled the emperor to Elba and generously gave him sovereignty over the small island, which was rich in mineral deposits, featuring iron mines and good wine but poor soil. It certainly had no structure anywhere near sufficient to house the emperor. Accompanying him was Neil Campbell, a representative of England’s government who was directed to act as an impartial observer but not an enforcer. Campbell had no power or control over the emperor and spent a good deal of his time away with his mistress. Counting on his promised annual allowance, Napoleon was free to build houses and roads, develop commerce, maintain a navy and army, and even claim the nearby fertile land of Pianosa. He appointed a governor and treasurer and formed a council to establish the appearance of a constitutional monarchy. His mother and sister even joined him in exile. The terms of the treaty would prove to be its undoing, as Napoleon never intended to stay long, and nothing in the treaty proscribed his leaving the island. Louis XVIII, newly restored to the throne, had no intention of paying the annual allowance, and Campbell strongly warned the Allies that Napoleon was short of funds even though he tried to collect back taxes. Braude (Making Monte Carlo: A History of Speculation and Spectacle, 2016) wonders whether he would have stayed if he were sufficiently funded. Perhaps, but he was there only 10 months and left with a flotilla of armed vessels. It’s great fun reading about the Allies’ attempts to predict his destination, and those anecdotes reinforce our knowledge of the emperor’s great talents. His only mistake was leaving while the Allies were still gathered at the Congress of Vienna and able to quickly respond to his escape. Though not earth-shattering in his insights, Braude’s unique focus will allow this book to sit comfortably alongside the countless other Napoleon biographies.

A simply written, sturdy addition to the groaning Napoleon shelves.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2260-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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