Disclaimer: I would like to thank She Writes Press and Netgalley for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Having received an ARC from the publishing company does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review
Plot Summary :
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 (Netgalley, 2021).
I really enjoyed this book. As a history buff I’ve found Napoleon’s life and achievements fascinating, because of their impact on European history. In “Finding Napoleon” we meet a Napoleon, who is in reduced circumstances after the Battle of Waterloo, but who has not truly conceded defeat. In exile on St. Helena, he is accompanied by a select few including Albine de Montholon. Albine is the wife of one of his generals and an aristocratic survivor of the French revolution, who becomes Napoleon’s last mistress.
While reading this book I found that Margaret Rodenberg did a great job of seamlessly combining the novel begun by a young Napoleon with his time in exile. The novel helps us get a glimpse into the mind of this contradictory man and allows us to better understand his relationship to Albine. Throughout the course of the novel I found myself sympathizing with these characters even though neither are what one would consider to be good people. Albine is very much the product fo the French Revolution. Having narrowly escaped execution, she is left with a severe case of PTSD and a desire for safety that she can never seem to obtain. Throughout the story she is caught between her husband and Napoleon. She loves them both in her own way and both men seek to use her for their own purposes. Though her choices are questionable, I feel bad for this woman who had experienced so many horrors in her life and found herself with few choices.
Then there is Napoleon himself. As his novel shows, Napoleon is also a product of revolution. First in Corsica and then in France. Yet while both revolutions espoused radical change neither were ultimately able to fully bring them about. It is little wonder then that while Napoleon sought to overturn the world order he also floundered in the attempt, as exemplified by his actions in Haiti. Meanwhile, his relationship with women seems to be colored by his relationship with his mother. While it may sound Freudian, Albine, Eugenie and his beloved Josephine remind me of how Napoleon describes his mother. All three women use their bodies for advancement and are faithless. Napoleon seems to reject all three, but at the same time is helplessly drawn to them.
Overall, I give this book a 5 out of 5. The plot is engaging and the author does a great job of getting the reader to sympathize with the main characters. I found the ending very poignant and a perfect way to end this story. If you enjoy reading about history then I think this is definitely the book for you.
Quotes I found significant:
That my son is the lesson. Once you’re a leader, you can’t trust anyone.
You should have died in battle. It would have been better for the rest of us.
She was a tainted woman, a liar, a thief. No matter. He would miss her desperately