Napoleon’s Last Island
By: Thomas Keneally
Format/Source: Advanced Reading Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster CA
From the bestselling author of Schindler’s List and The Daughters of Mars, a new historical novel set on the remote island of Saint Helena about the remarkable friendship between a young woman and one of history’s most intriguing figures, Napoleon Bonaparte, during the final years of his life in exile.
In October 1815, after losing the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon Bonaparte was banished to the island of Saint Helena. There, in one of the most remote places on earth, he lived out the final six years of his life. On this lonely island with no chance of escape, he found an unexpected ally: a spirited British girl named Betsy Balcombe who lived on the island with her family. While Napoleon waited for his own accommodations to be built, the Balcombe family played host to the infamous exile, a decision that would have devastating consequences for them all.
In Napoleon’s Last Island, “master of character development and period detail” (Kirkus Reviews) Thomas Keneally recreates Betsy’s powerful and complex friendship with the man dubbed The Great Ogre, her enmities and alliances with his remaining courtiers, and her dramatic coming-of-age. Bringing a shadowy period of history to life with a brilliant attention to detail, Keneally tells the untold story of one of Europe’s most enigmatic, charismatic, and important figures, and the ordinary British family who dared to forge a connection with him.
I actually didn’t know about this book until I received an ARC of this novel from the publishers. I don’t think I’ve read any fiction titles capturing the last years of Napoleon Bonaparte’s life, exiled and away from France. I haven’t read Thomas Keneally’s Schndler’s Ark but nonetheless I was intrigued that he wrote this. This book will be available on 04 October 2017.
I tried, you guys, I really did. The opening chapter didn’t quite grip me, but I read on in the hopes of the story picking up. Unfortunately it never did for me: I didn’t really feel for the story, the characters weren’t particularly compelling, and getting through the book was a chore that it was difficult to appreciate the themes of exile, social perception, and relationships. I suppose I did get a sense of place and setting in this book, how remote Saint Helena was from the wider world with all of its politics and happenings, but that was about it. I didn’t enjoy this historical fiction title, it didn’t capture my attention.