Patrick Rambaud closes out his trilogy of Napoleon with a tale of the Emperor in exile on the island of Elba. Earlier novels include The Battle and The Retreat, which showed Napoleonic military and political action from the standpoints of both commanders and helpless victims. Here, the author presents the Elba experience through the eyes of Octave Senecal, as devoted a servant as any monarch could wish for. Senecal is an agent of Napoleon’s who plays the role of double agent and reporter. Day-by-day events in the life of a former world colossus now turned petty prince of an obscure island occupy much of the novel. Rambaud introduces all of the significant French, Allied, and local characters whose fate is tied to that of the somewhat bourgeoisie-appearing one-time Emperor. Tension mounts as the reader awaits the description of the escape and voyage towards the Hundred Days, but the author keeps the account relatively low key. The Napoleon that emerges is a rather sad, even pathetic, chubby man who is unable to accept that he no longer dominates European affairs. As in introduction to his life on Elba, Rambaud has done a marvelous job. While the reader may regret the trilogy did not end with Waterloo, the down-sized and desperate Napoleon of these pages does ring true.
The Exile (UK)
352 (US), 384 (UK)