Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Review: Finding Napoleon by Margaret Rodenberg

Title:  Finding Napoleon

Author: Margaret Rodenberg

Format: ARC

Publisher: She Writes Press

Publish Date: April 6, 2021 (Today!)

Source: Author

What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "With its delightful adaptation of Napoleon Bonaparte's real attempt to write a novel, Finding Napoleon offers a fresh take on Europe's most powerful man after he's lost everything. A forgotten woman of history--Napoleon's last love, the audacious Albine de Montholon--narrates their tale of intrigue, passion, and betrayal.

After the defeated Emperor Napoleon goes into exile on tiny St. Helena Island in the remote South Atlantic, he and his lover, Albine de Montholon, plot to escape and rescue his young son. Banding together African slaves, British sympathizers, a Jewish merchant, a Corsican rogue, and French followers, they confront British opposition--as well as treachery within their own ranks--with sometimes subtle, sometimes bold, but always desperate action.
When Napoleon and Albine break faith with one another, ambition and Albine's husband threaten their reconciliation. To succeed, Napoleon must learn whom to trust. To survive, Albine must decide whom to betray.

Two hundred years after Napoleon's death, this elegant, richly researched novel reveals a relationship history conceals."

My Two Cents:

"Finding Napoleon" is the story of Napoleon Bonaparte as he is defeated and exiled to the small island of St. Helena in the south Atlantic. While he is able to take some of his allies to include his mistress, Albine, and her husband, he is torn from his beloved son, who remains with his cruel wife, Marie Louise. This is a good book infused with a lot of historical detail, a treat for my fellow history lovers.

Before reading this book, I was not really familiar with Napoleon's time on St. Helena. I had read of him getting exiled but I don't believe I had read anything about what his time was like there. In fact, until I read this book, I don't think I had ever looked at where St. Helena was on the map and just how far from home Napoleon was. Once on St. Helena, Napoleon is under the ever watchful eye of the British soldiers who want to prevent another escape like Napoleon carried out on Elba. Napoleon is down but not out and is constantly plotting ways to make his escape and get back to the life he knew and the son he loves.

St. Helena comes with its own cast of characters that Napoleon and Albine interact with. I particularly loved Betsy, a young teen who fancies having Napoleon as a friend, and Tobyson, a young boy who always seems to be with Betsy and represents the tension between keeping slaves and allowing for more free men on the island. Although they are secondary characters, every scene with Betsy and/or Tobyson were some of my favorites. They add a lot of light to the book.

The book is partially narrated by Albine, which was a really interesting choice. The switching narration between third person and first person when Albine is narrating worked really well and breathed a lot of interest into the book.  Another thing that I didn't realize until reading this book is that Napoleon wrote his own fictional book. I loved the inclusion of the "Clisson" passages in the book. You get to see another facet of Napoleon through his writing, which helps to bring some humanity to this larger than life man.

The writing of the book is really good. I loved the way the author wrote both the primary and secondary characters and wove them into the narrative. The book has some great bits of world building, particularly once Napoleon arrives on St. Helena. You can imagine what it looks like and what it smells like. The detail is really rich and wonderful.

I really enjoyed this debut novel and can't wait to see what Rodenberg writes next!


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