ARC Book Review: Napoleon’s Last Island by Thomas Keneally


veronica | When Simon & Schuster offered me an advanced copy of Napoleon’s Last Island by Thomas Keneally, I jumped all over it. It is no secret I love historical fictions that are rich in detail and tellsa compelling story using people who actually existed then. And really, who can resist a historical figure like THE Emperor?

This coming of age novel written from the view point of a pre-pubescent Betsy Balcombe in the style more reminiscent of a child’s journal was really tough to get through. Though I understood what Keneally was going for, I admit it was not particularly easy to get past the long chapters or little to no dialogue.

We meet Betsy and her family on St. Helena, where Billy, her father, is the purveyor to Napoleon. For the next years, we learn how close the Balcombe are with Napoleon (though we never really are told years have passed aside from holidays and the almost in passing mentions of how old a character is) particularly Betsy, whom he has the closest relationship with.

What I really enjoyed was the glimpse of the infamous “ogre” not on the battlefield, but his softer side whose delight in children is evident and whose love for his own child and Josephine were not what we’re used to hearing.

If it weren’t for the feisty and often defiant Betsy, I would’ve bailed on this book long ago instead finishing. While the premise was interesting, I felt as though a lot of the novel was unnecessary to the overall work.


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october 4, 2016

copy provided for honest review by