Saturday, September 9, 2017

Review: Humphry Knipe’s NAPOLEON’S ROSEBUD – Fascinating Look at Napoleon in Exile

This story was a pleasure to read. It’s well written, engaging and, at times, brilliant. It’s rich in historical detail, which I loved.

The author brings to life Napoleon’s life in exile on the island of St. Helena, told from the perspective of a descendant of one of the island’s families. I really enjoyed the story and recommend it. However, as a romance (which the author told me it was), I found it disappointing.

Set on the island of Saint Helena, England and Italy, beginning in 1815, it tells the story of Charlotte Knipe, raised on the island, which sits in the Atlantic between South America and Africa. 

Charlotte is supposedly in love with a botanist named Daniel, who she has not seen for seven years (since she was 12), but with whom she corresponds on a regular basis, sending him island plants to catalog.

Napoleon, who has just been defeated at Waterloo, arrives on the sleepy island to much hullabaloo. Soon after he arrives, it appears to the locals that Napoleon plans to escape. He begins to weave his plots and plans, full of treachery and betrayal. Early on, he enlists the aid of Charlotte, to whom he is attracted and who he nicknames “Rosebud”.  

Knipe paints a vivid picture of island life, including the local dialect the “Yamstocks” speak. He also introduces us to the island’s many characters: Charlotte’s wise old uncle, her best friend (a plain girl but a loyal friend), Gaspard, Napoleon’s loyal general who is arrogant but dashing, and Napoleon’s jail keeper, Governor Lowe, just to name a few.

Charlotte is fascinated with every handsome man she meets, including the gone-but-not-forgotten Daniel (whose escapades with Polly in London besmirch his otherwise noble image), Napoleon’s dashing general, Lord Byron (who she meets in Venice on an assignment for Napoleon), and even Napoleon himself. Since Charlotte is beautiful and intelligent, all the men are fascinated with her.

The author’s portrayal of Napoleon is clever and convincing. A brilliant strategist, one can imagine him occupying his time on the “dung heap” of an island with a last challenge.

I won’t give away the ending, but romance fans might find it improbable (as I did) and disappointing. Did Charlotte love any of those men? One has to wonder.

St. Helena

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