Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-03-23
- Reviewer: Staff
British biographer O’Keeffe (Some Sort of Genius) delivers a richly descriptive, moving, and altogether absorbing take on the consequences of Napoleon’s final defeat. A large cast of onlookers, soldiers, generals, diplomats, and assorted loved ones populates this distinctive book’s pages as O’Keeffe relates how the particular battle struck those who observed, survived, and mopped up after it. He spares readers nothing in his depiction of its sanguinary horrors, which rivaled the American Civil War for modern brutality on the battlefield. The book’s most affecting segment concerns Napoleon in defeat; fatalistic, honorable, even noble in flight and captivity, the deposed emperor could not escape the British naval chase and Britain’s determination to exile him forever to a lonely outpost far from Europe. Astonishingly, the book contains not a single map, despite the difficulty of attempting to understand either one of modern history’s most consequential military battles or its aftermath without seeing how the battle unfolded. That incomprehensible defect aside, O’Keeffe’s telling of Napoleon’s near escape to the U.S., followed by his attempted flight to Britain itself, is suspenseful and masterful. The book ought to be read in conjunction with those of Jenny Uglow (In These Times) and Brendan Simms (The Longest Afternoon) on related subjects. (May)