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BROERS Michael, Napoleon: Soldier of Destiny, volume I

Michael Broers, <i>Napoleon, Soldier of Destiny</i> © Faber&Faber, 2014

Michael Broers, Napoleon, Soldier of Destiny © Faber&Faber, 2014

This is volume one of Michael Broers' biography of Napoleon. Yes, it's Napoleon's life story. But there are some striking new takes which make it a fascinating read. One that spoke to me was Broers' insistence on the Corsican childhood. The Oxford academic's distinction between Corsicans of the interior and the Corsican coastlanders (aptly set against the image of the Anglo-Irish of the Pale and the Irish of the interior) is fascinatingly new. What's more, this key helps guide the reader throughout the labyrinth of Corsican politics, Paoli, the arrival of the French Revolution, local alliances and conflicts. Broers is also tendentious, when he describes the marriage to Josephine as a mistake! And his insights into the similarities of experience of the soon-to-be imperial couple similarly are compelling. For Napoleon's public career, as Broers himself proudly notes, this is the first ever to have been written using ‘our' Correspondance générale. As a result (not surprisingly), the account is sure and stimulating. Alongside the English-language biographies by John Holland Rose and Steven Englund, his account is one that's going stand the test of time. Roll on volume two!
Peter Hicks, March 2014

Review by Christopher Silvester in the Financial Times, dated 28 February, 2014.
Review by Roger Lewis in the Daily Mail, dated 20 February, 2014.

Review by Harry Reid in The Herald-Scotland, dated 30 March, 2014.
Review by Professor Charles Esdaile, dated 8 January, 2015

Place and publisher: London: Faber and Faber

Date of publication: 2014

Number of pages: 608

This week’s book(s):

Description: From the publishers: "After Napoleon was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo, he was sent into exile on St Helena, arriving in October 1815. For the six years until his death, he was an 'eagle in a cage', reduced from the most powerful figure in Europe to a prisoner on a rock in the South Atlantic. But the fallen emperor was charmed and entertained by Betsy Balcombe, the pretty teenage daughter of a local merchant. Anne Whitehead has discovered new evidence that the relationship between Betsy and the Emperor was not just sentimental or romantic, as Betsy claimed in the memoir which turned her into a celebrity. Her father, merchant William Balcombe, was well-connected to the court in London, and he smuggled letters and undertook a clandestine mission to Paris for Napoleon. Betsy's relationship with Napoleon cast a shadow over the rest of her colourful life. She married a Regency cad, who soon left her and their daughter, and she travelled to Australia in 1823 with her father, who was appointed the first Colonial Treasurer of New South Wales. With her extraordinary connections to royalty in London and to Napoleon, the Bonaparte family and his courtiers, Betsy Balcombe led a life worthy of a Regency romance. This new account draws on the author's painstaking research in the UK, St Helena, France and Australia, revealing Napoleon at his most vulnerable, human and reflective, and a woman caught in some of the most dramatic events of her time."
Austrailian title: BETSY AND THE EMPEROR: the true story of Napoleon, a pretty girl, a Regency rake and an Australian colonial misadventure.
More information here

Place and publisher: London, Allen & Unwin

Date of publication: 2015

Number of pages: 368

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