Napoleon:Life, Legacy, and Image: A Biography

. December 2012. 352p. 978-1-25000-903-6.
There seems to be a never-ending supply of books about Napoleon and his era, tens of thousands of titles having been published over the years. Here, Forrest (Napoleon and His Empire: Europe, 1804–1814) attempts to cover all aspects of Napoleon’s life in just over 300 pages, which is a challenging task, as the author will necessarily be hard pressed to decide what to omit. He covers a good number of significant Napoleonic events, e.g., the 1812 invasion of Russia, in just a few pages each, likewise for the Napoleonic Code and the Battle of Waterloo. These will be good introductions for readers new to the subject, but the book adds to the popular studies of the Little Corporal in its sections on his legacy. Forrest starts with a chapter describing the return of Napoleon’s remains to Paris in 1840 and the impact of that on the French people. He returns to this discussion in the last chapter, noting that the restored Bourbon monarchy hoped that the return of the emperor’s remains from Saint Helena would restore the monarchy to popularity and strengthen both it and French society generally. ­
VERDICT The narrative never bogs down or seems hurried, and is thus for lay readers a good introduction to Napoleon and his impact on French history. Libraries with other popular studies of Napoleon may consider it an optional purchase.

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