Napoleon’s Last Island by Thomas Keneally

Napoleon's Last Island by Thomas Keneally

iWhat happened with Napoleon afer the war and his exile….

Napoleon’s Last Island

I was intrigued, never having seen much about Napoleon’s time on St. Helena (admittedly I haven’t researched it much) and curious how the story would spin.  Keneally uses the daughter of the island’s provedore, Betsy Balcombe, as the central figure ..

A bit of a mixed bag for me, there were large moments of background and explanation given to provide the reader with necessary information, but these moments, while needed did seem to drag the pace. Where the book shines is with Betsy and Napoleon and their interactions. It is easy to see the camaraderie, his appreciation of the fresh perspectives and innocence that she brings, and the general genial treatment from her family.  Betsy is a lamb in a pack of wolves, however, and the political machinations and struggles for supremacy and relevance in this milieu often find her shuffled like a pawn, unwitting and unwilling.  With the emigration of the Balcombes to Australia, a mix of self-preservation and new start, the story again gives a view of a new world with its own challenges, political pitfalls and social consequences.

Overall this book was more than a bit uneven as a read, moments that show research often contrast greatly with the more imagined bits from Betsy’s perspective, and her lightness and near carefree childish approach to the world around her are bright and shiny in the mix.  Still, I can’t pick out a huge stopgap in the novel, only to say it read as if it had two different purposes: Betsy’s story and then the politics of the day.  With great attention to detail and description, plenty of moments with Betsy that bring a smile, this is a read a bit then let it simmer sort of title.


Napoleon’s Last Island by Thomas Keneally

Title: Napoleon's Last Island: A Novel
Author: Thomas Keneally
Genre: Historical Fiction, Regency, Romantic Elements
Published by: Atria Books
ISBN: 1501128426
Published on: 4 October 2016
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 432
Rated: three-stars
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From the bestselling author of Schindler’s List and The Daughters of Mars, a new historical novel set on the remote island of Saint Helena about the remarkable friendship between a young woman and one of history’s most intriguing figures, Napoleon Bonaparte, during the final years of his life in exile.

In October 1815, after losing the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon Bonaparte was banished to the island of Saint Helena. There, in one of the most remote places on earth, he lived out the final six years of his life. On this lonely island with no chance of escape, he found an unexpected ally: a spirited British girl named Betsy Balcombe who lived on the island with her family. While Napoleon waited for his own accommodations to be built, the Balcombe family played host to the infamous exile, a decision that would have devastating consequences for them all.

In Napoleon’s Last Island, “master of character development and period detail” (Kirkus Reviews) Thomas Keneally recreates Betsy’s powerful and complex friendship with the man dubbed The Great Ogre, her enmities and alliances with his remaining courtiers, and her dramatic coming-of-age. Bringing a shadowy period of history to life with a brilliant attention to detail, Keneally tells the untold story of one of Europe’s most enigmatic, charismatic, and important figures, and the ordinary British family who dared to forge a connection with him.

A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

About Thomas Keneally

Thomas Keneally began his writing career in 1964 and has published thirty-two novels since, most recently Shame and the Captives and the New York Times bestselling The Daughters of Mars. His novels include Schindler’s List, which won the Booker Prize in 1982, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, Gossip from the Forest, and Confederates, all of which were shortlisted for the Booker Prize. He has also written several works of nonfiction, including his boyhood memoir Homebush Boy, The Commonwealth of Thieves, and Searching for Schindler. He is married with two daughters and lives in Sydney, Australia.