The Emperor's Last Island: A Journey to St Helena

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9780099752110: The Emperor's Last Island: A Journey to St Helena

The Emperor's Last Stand is a book about St Helena, an island with a sad, strange history, and about the tangle of stories and myths, absurdities and simple facts that have accumulated around Napoleon and his sojourn here. It follows him through the eyes of those who lived with him, who guarded him, who managed only to catch a brief glimpse of him, alive or dead. It is also a personal account: a description of Julia Blackburn's own journey to St Helena and at the same time a journey through the private memories and associations evoked by the telling of this poignant and curious story.

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Review:

After his defeat at Waterloo in 1815, Napoleon was exiled to the island of St. Helena--"further away from anywhere than anywhere else in the world," writes Julia Blackburn, who describes the final years of Napoleon's life on this remote rock in the South Atlantic Ocean, where he died in 1821. A handful of quarreling sycophants accompanied him during his exile, all vying for favors and tolerating the former general's constant cheating at card games. Meanwhile, a contingent of British soldiers kept him under close observation. They feared that he would escape, but an attempt was never made. Interestingly, Blackburn disputes the theory that Napoleon was assassinated by arsenic poisoning. She adds details of her own trip to the island, which continues to serve as a bleak outpost of the British Empire. It was apparently once a place of great natural splendor, but early visitors cut down its trees, which loosened the soil for the eroding winds; the island never really recovered. A few maps and photos would have helped, but this unique book deserves attention from all Napoleon fans.

From the Inside Flap:

leon Bonaparte arrived on St. Helenad surreal exile that would last until his death six years later. "A resonant meditation on exile, fame, the stories we tell about ourselves (and) the bigger stories we tell about our great figures."--Los Angeles Times Book Review.

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