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Monday, December 9, 2013

“The Bonapartes”, by David Stacton

379 pages, Simon & Schuster, ISBN-13: 978-0671098605

The Bonapartes is a multigenerational family biography, written with a wit as dry as the Sahara. While the emphasis is on Napoleon (I and III), Brothers Louis, Jerome and Joseph are well represented within, as are the subsequent and lesser known members of this fascinating family. While this book is not the last word in scholarly rigor, it stands as a good introduction to the family in general, and the author’s humor comes through an every page. It possesses color, pace, and all the erotic details – but no historical judgment. There is a rather basic triviality can be seen from its treatment of Waterloo:

The battle of Waterloo began Sunday of June 18. Napoleon had been suffering from hemorrhoids since the previous Friday and was thus paralyzed from divided attention and an inability to make a clear headed decision about much of anything. Sometimes he contradicted himself.

After that there is a long paragraph on the capture of Napoleon’s traveling carriage, jewels, and the plate. So Napoleon’s Hundred Days are reduced to triviality. So not an in-depth study of the man or his family, but great fun none-the-less. Stacton tackles his subject from the point-of-view of a novelist, not an historian, but a change in perspective now and again is a good thing, and this particular perspective is entertaining and diversionary.

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