- Save 10% on selected children’s books, compliments of Amazon Family Promotion exclusive for Prime members .
Napoleon in America Paperback – 7 Jan 2014
- Choose from over 13,000 locations across the UK
- Prime members get unlimited deliveries at no additional cost
- Find your preferred location and add it to your address book
- Dispatch to this address when you check out
Special offers and product promotions
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
"Evocative and immersive, Selin's debut historical fiction twists Napoleon's fate ... vigorous, engrossing and remarkably realistic. A thorough, sweeping novel with seamless transitions from the real to the imagined." - Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Historical fiction writer Shannon Selin has a master’s degree in political science, specializing in international relations. She lives in Vancouver, Canada, where she is working on the next novel in her Napoleon series. Shannon blogs about Napoleonic and 19th century history at shannonselin.com.
Top customer reviews
Publisher: Dry Wall Publishing (7 Jan. 2014)
"What if Napoleon had escaped after Waterloo?" Some people ask me.
"He'd have gone to America" I say. It's an easy question to answer because the motives of the emperor at that time were still clear and his power of choice was still his own. Most people do not ask, what if Napoleon had escaped from St Helena?
Napoleon lead a life of escapes. First from Corsica and obscurity, then from temporary fame to immortality, then from Elba and ignominy, but he could not escape from St Helena except in death, and due to the impossibility of constructing a plausible escape, Shannon Selin cleverly does not focus on any wild scheme of escape plan in her book Napoleon in America.
It is book of giant scope. More so than one might assume. Naively we ask "what if Napoleon escaped?" But that is just the beginning, for this one event would effect every statesman in Europe. All well and good to say what if Napoleon got away, but then we must ask, what would the reaction be?
A thousand cans of a thousand worms are let open by this one action, and Selin demonstrates a cool mastery over each response. Creating a highly believable, authentic and not too far fetched or overblown scenario that is almost at the other extreme understated rather than implausible.
Populated by real people, speaking much as they might have, with scrupulous adherence to their historical beliefs, each new figure is a brilliantly researched vignette. For an instance I think that General Foy's wounded shoulder, inadvertently flinching at the word Waterloo is an excellent touch and demonstrates the kind of sensitivity and scholarship at play here.
Napoleon is particularly well drawn, displaying a good blend of loud and quiet moments. He is always speaking in proverbs and quotable blurbs, acting like a "baby of 52" to quote one character, setting out for a quiet existence in exile, yet slowly becoming more and more active, following his old pattern. We are drawn on here, fascinated to see Selin's vision for her very plausible Napoleon, and where it will lead. Now that history had changed questions pile up upon one another compelling people like me to follow his path.
Part way through it starts to become clear that Napoleon is being drawn closer and closer towards the Latin American states then in revolution. Specifically, as many in America did at the time, he looks to Texas as an opportunity. Napoleon spends most of the time as a sort of portrait, yet every now and then we see some brave incursions into his psychology. Where he finally gives up the pretence of living in peaceful exile, he rails at his brother Joseph that if he had stayed and died on St Helena his martyrdom would have secured a crown for his son than vegetate as a nothingness relic in America.
Selin cleverly asks nothing of her carachters that they would not likely have done. Thus we are not asked to believe anything too great. Napoleon acts much as he did in 1814-15, at first affecting a genuine tiredness of public life and adventure, then becoming restless, then looking for an excuse to return to a leading role.
At the same time real events roll onwards. Adding a layer of realism to the plot, which comes in handy when one tries to visualise Napoleon smoking a peace pipe with an Indian chief as he marches into Texas, leading a ragtag army of exiles and adventurers which include Jean Laffite and Jim Bowie into what was then a Mexican no mans land. The narrative builds slowly, an annoyance to some, but a pleasure for myself and those who savour details.
Could what unfolds be done? Well the nice thing about alternate history is that anything is possible, but this is also plausible. If Napoleon, or anybody with a mind had gathered 2,500 men and marched into Texas, the USA would have been hard pressed to oppose it. Their army was pitifully reduced, with not a cavalry regiment to its name, spread in among a wide string of isolated forts and garrisons. In Mexico the province of Texas was famously sparse in population and even fewer in troops, the Spanish would be in no position to intervene. So actually this seemingly crazy idea could have been pulled off, at least in the short term.
The military aspects, as with all the elements of the book are realistic & well thought out. Disease, desertion & human error abound.
Shanon Selin is a brilliant researcher. Her blog is a model of howninternet history should be presented. The book is therefore heavy on history, and although the story is strong enough to support it, at times you'd be fooled into thinking this was a nonfiction alternate history book. The author is therefore to be congratulated for successfully blurring the line between reality and fiction, which is what every historical author strives to do. And just to prove it there is an extensive source list and character list in the back.
The book ends with a bang, and the promise of unfinished business. All in all I'd say this is the best alternate historical fiction I've read since Gettysburg.
It is semi-historical in that its characters are historical figures: Napoleon, his brother Joseph Bonaparte, John Quincy Adams, James Monroe, King Louis XVIII, the Marquis de Lafayette, the Duke of Wellington, "privateer" Jean Lafitte and Jim Bowie just to name a few. It is semi-fiction in that it is obviously not a true story. Napoleon did not, as we know, escape but much of the dialogue and storyline ring true. Napoleon speaks of his dreams and feelings for his son. John Quincy Adams thinks out loud about the rationale of United States foreign policy. Louis XVIII muses over his role in the restored monarchy. Listen as Lafayette balances his love of liberty with the practical politics. Follow as Wellington explains British policy in Europe. Let Lafitte try to convince you that he is a privateer, not a pirate. The events that fill this storyline are fiction. The people and themes that give it life are real.
Author Shannon Selin's writing style is exceptional. The action flows seemlessly. The conversation is realistic. The saga is believable. Some novels of this genre reach a point that is so far-fetched that it undercuts the credibility of the work, but never in "Napoleon in America". The mind's can actually see the scenes described. Depending on your sentiments toward Napoleon it may generate horror or disappointment for what might have been. This book draws the reader in to think of the times, appreciate what Napoleon meant to the world, understand America's role in that world and, most importantly, to just enjoy a great story.
It is a book that repays close attention. It is populated with an almost Tolstoyan cast of characters, inhabiting ships, battlefields, parlours, Coffee Houses, ballrooms and, above all, the corridors of power as leaders across the countries of Europe and the Americas weigh the implications of Napoleon’s escape, and how to respond. Yet it avoids any tendency for elaborate explanation: here the history is conveyed through human interactions and human relationships, all portrayed with sensitivity and subtlety. Similarly, the energy and freshness of the writing are sustained by the clever use of extracts from diaries, letters and newspaper articles of the day, which shift the tone and pace of the narrative and deliver a wider perspective on events.
A fundamental ingredient of all successful historical writing is, of course, an authentic portrayal of the spirit of the time and place. Here the author really excels: we are immersed in the sights and sounds of the day (including what feels like a particularly convincing rendering of the rhythms and resonance of the vernacular), right down to the food ('cow peas and hog jowls...milk-fed suckling pig roasted golden brown’), the smells ('the stench of wine and urine'), and the local colour ('mules loaded with silver, buffalo robes, tongues, pelts and wool').
Apart from all the above, this book is worth reading if only for the various aphorisms uttered by Napoleon (and others). I don't know whether he actually said them but, if he didn't, it sounds like he did – or should have!
It was Napoleon himself who said that history is merely ‘une fable’ in which everyone agrees. With regard to this particular ‘fable’, it is hard to imagine a more intelligent or engaging rendition.