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This is the first book I have read on Napoleon and I have since watched a number of documentaries about him, including one with the author debating another Napoleon expert as to whether Napoleon should be called great - the author argued he should. With all this accumulated knowledge, I recommend this book. I thought the author did an excellent job of detailing, and in some cases I do mean detailing, the events of Napoleon's life. What I liked most is that the author gave different points of view on certain events, explained his conclusion and why he came to that conclusion. It showed he thought about the issues.
27 of 27 people found this review helpful
My interest in Napoleon was sparked a few years ago by the adventures of Richard Sharpe and the Aubrey/Maturin series. After re-reading War and Peace, I decided I had to learn more about the background. Since then, I've listened to a number of audiobooks about Napoleon (a surprising number of them narrated by John Lee).
I had also previously read Andrew Roberts' history of the Second World War, The Storm of War, and was impressed by his writing and the organization of the narrative. The same qualities are in evidence here. We follow Napoleon from his early days on Corsica to military school in France, to Italy, to Egypt, to Spain, and to Russia. The whole of Europe became his battlefield.
As in The Storm of War, Roberts includes a generous helping of political history too. Napoleon scattered constitutions around Europe like travel brochures. He codified and exported laws that embodied at least some of the ideals of the French Revolution. (Roberts, however, notes that the liberal tendencies of the famed Napoleonic code were blunted by its persistent sexism: all men might be equal under the law, but women need not apply.)
The man himself was an interesting combination of engaging and repellent traits. He was a bully, certainly - and a butcher - but he also had an insatiable thirst for knowledge: if a dinner guest had specialized knowledge, he would pepper him with questions and take notes. He was never afraid to say "I don't know" in response to a particular question; but he would always try to find out. He was always in motion. He consumed his meals in 10 minutes, and his lovemaking was likely to be equally hurried.
Napoleon's spectacular rise is matched by his equally spectacular fall. His story has an inherently dramatic shape, and that comes through in this mostly chronological account.
John Lee is, as always, a rapid and enthusiastic narrator. And also as always with this type of material on audio, I found myself reaching for supplementary maps and diagrams in Wikipedia. I do wish PDF supplements were standard for this type of book on Audible, and that they were easily accessible through the mobile app.
47 of 49 people found this review helpful