Thursday, February 4, 2010

Weekend Reading - A Recommendation

A week before I saw the film 'The Young Victoria' I read, or rather listened to, Paul Johnson's Napoleon: A Life on my ipod.
There was such a contrast between the two most influential leaders of the 19th Century. The legacy left by Victoria was one of an Empire of economic growth and stability. The legacy left by Napoleon was one of an Empire lost. In spite of his 21 years of war, from his participation in First Coalition in 1793 to his final defeat at Waterloo in 1815, the net gain from Napoleon's leadership was negligible. In fact, after years of famous battles, some brilliantly won like Austerlitz and some terribly lost like his tragic Russian campaign, Napoleon's wars led to the unification of the German States and to their growing belligerence and military capability.
Without Napoleon, there couldn't have been a Hitler.
But I won't go into all of that here.

Let's just say that Napoleon was a fascinating yet deeply flawed man and I recommend Paul Johnson's book. (Actually I recommend all of Paul Johnson's books)

My interest in Napoleon was sparked by this cameo. From the book I learned that there was a huge amount of Napoleonic memorabilia created in the 19th Century and this cameo is part of that memorabilia.
If straight history isn't for you, I recommend instead these two books by William Dietrich. They are historical thrillers, if you will, Da Vinci Code-like stories that are set in the midst of Napoleon's military campaigns in Egypt and the Levant.

One of the most interesting things about Napoleon's Egyptian campaign is the fact that he was accompanied by 167 members of the French Academy who studied everything from ancient science and mathematics to history and language. Among their discoveries was the Rosetta Stone.
These Academy members play an important part in these books along with the main character, an pragmatic American, who gets drawn into intrigue, eventually solving a mystery that began over a card game and a murder in post revolution Paris.
Other historical characters who appear in the book are Admiral Nelson and British super spy Sydney Smith.
The Rosetta Key by William Dietrich

These books, are generously sprinkled with both actual history and utter nonsense, and they are very amusing. In fact they would make great films...*hint Ron Howard hint*
So if it is raining or snowing where you are this weekend, I suggest staying home with a cup of tea and one of these books.
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Wildernesschic said...

The Cameo is beautiful and I may just check these books out as my book club seems to enjoy historical novels and this has to be better than the one set in the convent that I am reading now :)

Belle de Ville said...

don't give up on your historical novel set in a convent...Umberto Eco's "The Name of the Rose" was set in a Medieval monestary and that was a fantastic book...and movie with hottie Sean Connery.

lipglossedassassin said...

I'm obsessed with that Beladora cameo!

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