Madame Letizia Bonaparte, the mother of Napoleon, was fully worthy of her famous son, and, happily, this well-written biography is worthy of her. A woman of great and lasting beauty and of indomitable spirit, she came of a noble Corsican family: forty of her male relations escorted her to her marriage with Carlo Bonaparte as a kind of dowry in brute strength -- a useful commodity in Corsica. Napoleon was the second of her eight children; her husband died when she was only thirty-four and she never remarried. She lived to be eighty-six, outliving three of her children, including Napoleon. In her long life she was several times a political refugee: the first time she was six months pregnant with the unborn Napoleon and escaped on horseback over the Corsican hills; the last time she fled Paris in the imperial carriages at the approach of the allied armies. The book gives an excellent picture of Napoleon's relations with his family. His nepotism, his wish to found a dynasty for his family (not just for himself) becomes understandable in view of the close ties traditional in Corsican families. With the passionate and strong-willed Bonapartes, it required a firm hand to keep everyone on good terms, and Madame Mere (as she was usually called) constantly undertook this task. Miss Stirling's book is a pleasant addition to Napoleonic lore: her view of Napoleon and of his mother is almost entirely sympathetic, yet she manages to avoid the pitfalls of panegyric, and to present both Napoleon and the mother who always feared the outome of all the splendor as vivid human beings.