I enjoyed this book very much and at the same time was a little disappointed.
The historical premise of the novel was fascinating and I wish Brooks had developed this a little more. The novel is set against the historical backdrop of the French expedition in 1840 to retrieve Napoleon’s body from Saint Helena. Philippe de Rohan-Chabot, an aristocratic young diplomat, is charged with bringing the body from the island prison where Napoleon died to an imperial tomb at Les Invalides in Paris. Chabot’s rival in love is the aging diplomat and author Henri Beyle, known to posterity as Stendhal and their amour is the impulsive Amelia Curial. It took a little to get the characters sorted out, but once I had everyone in place the story took off. There is suspense in the love triangle – does Ameila choose Beyle or Phillipe? Youth or experience?
Brooks could have done much more with the novel and added a great deal more about the expedition to bring Napoleon back to France. I was a little let down when I found that the book was light on history and heavier on romance. The story of the expedition was fascinating though and I had never been exposed to the expedition in any of my other readings.
I hope that Peter Brooks will publish another novel and give us more history and less romance next time!
Book Details: Published by W. W. Norton & Company (February 7, 2011), 288 pages, ISBN: 978-0393079586