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

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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