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Napoleon Hardcover – 20 Nov 1997

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd (20 Nov. 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224040723
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224040723
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.4 x 5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 820,599 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"One of the year's best biographies... A compelling portrait of one of history's greatest figures" (Catherine Lockerbie Scotsman)

"McLynn writes with considerable verve: his pithy characterisations of Napoleon's subordinates, the alternating chapters of narrative and analysis, the dramatic set-pieces...all these combine to make his biography pleasurable and highly instructive to read" (Brendan Simms Evening Standard)

"McLynn offers an admirably clear narrative, neither adulatory nor debunking. He acknowledges and displays the extraordinary tale and does not hide the pettiness" (Alan Massie Daily Telegraph)

"A robust, well-paced biography which pans confidently from the seventeen-year-old child educated by Jesuits to the ruins of the imperial grandeur and death by slow arsenic poisoning on a bleak St Helena" (Colin Cardwell Scotland on Sunday) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

'A brilliant biography which will surely become a classic life of Napoleon.' The Times --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 2 Feb. 1999
Format: Hardcover
McLynn really manages to focus on Napoleon the war leader in this book. His description of the early days of Napoleon and his rise to power are very thorough. McLynn never loses sight of the character of Napoleon, and is especially good on the twisted relationship which existed between him and Josephine. Other enjoyable sections also include the March on Moscow and Napoleons death in exile, it sheds light using the latest research on the suspected murder of Napoleon. However, the book falls down slightly in the pocket biographies of those surrounding Napoleon, who are all by and large painted as incompetent and without character. More detail on how and why Napoleon suffered all these fools surrounding him would have been interesting. There are also very few illustrative stories about Napoleon the man as told seen by contemporaries and for the novice it may appear too detailed on politics in places. But stick with it, it becomes very interesting towards the end.
Although there are some dissapointing elements to this biography, it is probably the best and most up-to-date version of Napoleon's life up till now.
To illustrate every aspect of Napoleon's life to the satisfaction of every reader must be well nigh impossible but McLynn's Napoleon will leave the reader coming back for more.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 21 April 2000
Format: Paperback
Napoleon's career was made by the French revolution. Austria and England fought hard to bring down the new regime in France and there was battle after battle. People with talent were able to prove themselves in the armies of the new regime were aristocratic birth was not the key to one's career.
Napoleon's first success was designing the strategy that regained the port of Toulon from the English. He went on to beat the Italians in a long campaign in Italy. Following a disastrous expedition to Egypt he returned and was able to make himself dictator of France, initially as First Consul and then later as Emperor. As emperor he initially brought peace to France and developed a set of laws known as the Code Napoleon which were important in shaping the development of law in all of Europe.
Napoleon's detractors have focused on his cronyism. He made his various family members kings of such places as Spain, Southern Italy and the Netherlands. Further he had a penchant for war and after an initial period of peace France was soon at war with all of Europe.
Frank McLynn tells the well-told story well. He brings to its telling two new things. The first involves the Russian campaign. In 1812 Napoleon had defeated most of Europe. Russia held out against him. He raised an army of over half a million men and marched to Moscow. At Borodino an inconclusive and bloody battle was fought which left the Russian Army bloodied but intact. With the onset of winter Napoleon did not know what to do. He occupied Moscow but when the Czar refused to negotiate he saw no way of ending the conflict. He then started a long retreat back to Germany. His army was destroyed and all of the countries of Europe rose up against him and he was defeated.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Nickel on 11 Jan. 2004
Format: Hardcover
Mclynn's extensive biography is evidence of the detailed research and analysis of both contemporary and modern day literature on Napoleon's life.
I have three main criticisms:
1. His conclusions on some of the great men who surrounded Napoleon - Ney, Tallyrand and Bernadotte to name three - are forthright and damning. There's no doubt in Mclynn's mind that they were either incompetent, treacherous or both, and no evidence is presented to support them. I was left feeling slightly sorry for these characters!
2. The great battles of Austerlitz and Jena have no diagrams to show the dispositions, and those for Borodino and Waterloo are confusing. The text mentions place names that aren't on the maps, and the maps have features and generals that are ommited from the text. As key moments in Napoleon's career, I would have appreciated a better understanding, using graphics, of the strategies and tactics employed.
3. The Sources section does not show evidence of primary research at the battlefields or cities, although maybe the author assumes this need not be mentioned. Consequently, the descriptions are a little lacking in colour, and too dependant on reviewing the reports of others, without the spark that first hand obervation can give.
I certainly learnt things about Napoleon that I wouldn't have learnt elsewhere, but it's left me slightly annoyed that, in order to get a more complete and less opinioned picture, I have had to check out some of McLynn's assertions myself.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By "mattwilso" on 14 Sept. 2002
Format: Paperback
~~~Just to put the record straight about one of the remarks made by a previous reviewer: it is not Freudian psychobabble that the author has written, if there is any pyshobabble in the book at all it is Jungian, but I, personally, noted very little of it. This is easily the best book on Napoleon that has emerged recently. It towers above Robert Asprey's well written dual-set biography as well as Vincent Cronin's very good, although highly prejudiced biography.The author takes a very unique slant~~ on the subject. There is not the inquiry into his military genius and plans, although readers will be amazed how much of that Mr.McLynn has absorbed, nor is there attempt to portray Napoleon as a moral saviour of France. No, the Author's narrative, to my mind, focuses on the far most interesting questions of what does it mean to be human? And how does Napoleon stretch our ideas of what human 'nature' is? Presented before us is a man who not only drags himself from nothing but manages (at the~~ expense of his health) to survive on three hours sleep a night whilst utilising the rest of the time in work. He seems to be, as Emerson nominated him, a mainfestation of the Modern. Time and ambition being key to understanding his character. Who is written of does not bear as much resemblance to the Napoleon I have read of in other biographies, nonetheless I was so impressed by the detail of Mr.McLynn's scholarship that I take his book to be the gold standard. No other writer is so well~~ informed about the continuing debates surrounding Napoleon, no other writer appears to be so well philosophically informed, nor any other writer so at home with the 'psychobabble'. A great book, a great read.~
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