The Monsters of St. Helena

Written by Brooks Hansen
Review by Suzanne Crane

The Monsters of St. Helena could be considered an island’s viewpoint of the events occurring within her precincts. It is not only the story of Napoleon Bonaparte’s last days in exile, but also of all who live, and have lived, on this remote piece of land. The reader is given the island’s history from birth and her first real resident, Fernando Lopez, who also haunts the place, through the hectic events that Napoleon’s arrival causes for the early nineteenth century residents. Intermittently peeking into the lives and thoughts of the numerous cast, Hansen’s writing is almost ethereal. The reader, somewhat humorously at times, observes the feelings and reactions of the islanders to old “Bony” Napoleon’s actual persona versus the expectations they’ve built around his myth. The blossoming of the friendship between the ex-Emperor and little Betsy Balcombe is quite quaint.

The novel deftly conveys the attitudes and culture of the island community, and the style chosen by Hansen is that of an adult fairy tale in which only the island lives happily ever after.