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 15, 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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Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

1776

A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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