Napoleon

A Life
Narrated by: Leighton Pugh
Length: 27 hrs and 10 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (304 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The definitive biography of Napoleon, revealing the true man behind the legend.

"What a novel my life has been!" Napoleon once said of himself. Born into a poor family, the callow young man was, by 26, an army general. Seduced by an older woman, his marriage transformed him into a galvanizing military commander. The Pope crowned him as Emperor of the French when he was only 35. Within a few years, he became the effective master of Europe, his power unparalleled in modern history. His downfall was no less dramatic.

The story of Napoleon has been written many times. In some versions, he is a military genius, in others a war-obsessed tyrant. Here, historian Adam Zamoyski cuts through the mythology and explains Napoleon against the background of the European Enlightenment, and what he was himself seeking to achieve. This most famous of men is also the most hidden of men, and Zamoyski dives deeper than any previous biographer to find him. Beautifully written, Napoleon brilliantly sets the man in his European context.

©2018 Adam Zamoyski (P)2018 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"Napoleon is an out and out masterpiece and a joy to read." (Sir Antony Beevor, author of Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege)

"A biography of Napoleon Bonaparte that avoids the well-established military details and gives us the story of a singular man...Illuminating." (Kirkus)

"Zamoyski tells the personal side of Napoleon's life...his hopes, his dreams, his self-doubts." (New York Journal of Books)

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Fascinating

There are two books by the same name,” Napoleon: A Life”. This one is by Zamoyski and was published in 2019. The other is by Andrew Roberts and published in 2015. I read it in 2015 and found it to be an outstanding biography of Napoleon. The reason I decided to read Zamoyski’s book was his attempt to debunk the fantasy, myth and exaggeration of Napoleon’s life. Zamoyski attempts to reveal more about Napoleon’s personal life than did Roberts.

The book is well written and researched. Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) has had so much written about him. I have been fascinated by Napoleon since I was a child. Therefore, I have read much written about him. A book must have a hook or different approach to entice me to read it. Zamoyski primarily portrays Napoleon as a self-made opportunist. The author attempts to reveal Napoleon’s skills and talents as well as his flaws. Zamoyski states Napoleon was a tactician not a strategist. That is the opposite opinion from most historians. Napoleon was gifted in many areas from mathematics to logistics. He also imposed his theory of how governments should operate on Europe. He also rewrote the legal system and it is still in use today. Zamoyski continued the falsehood about Napoleon’s height. He was 5’7” which was the average height of a French man in that era. This book is easy to read and well worth the effort.

The book is twenty-seven hours and ten minutes. Leighton Pugh does a good job narrating the book. Pugh is an actor and audiobook narrator.

53 people found this helpful

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Excellent biography

I have read many biographies and this is one of the best. It is very well balanced; it doesn’t ignore Napoleon’s failures nor it deifies him.
Highly recommended.

3 people found this helpful

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Good but wanted better

It was hard to follow the details as the author jumped around too much without good transition. But a very detailed account of his life nonetheless.

1 person found this helpful

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TMI. POORLY READ<br /><br />

Valuable history is buried in the mounds of detail percussively declaimed by the monotonous reader. I know more about Napoleon now, but at such a price!

1 person found this helpful

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Not for the average history buff

Although I found the level of detail impressive, it was way too much for a popular biography.

1 person found this helpful

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Great introduction to Napoleon.

I had only a thumbnail sketch of Napoleon before this book. And that involved a lot of the popular myths about him.
But this book does a fantastic job of providing an objective account of his life. The author provides direct quotes from Napoleon’s contemporaries for color. When the true facts are unknown he is careful to state so and offer reasonable possibilities to what Napoleon May have been thinking at the time backed up by evidence.
Napoleon was a fascinating person and full of contradictions. He’s worth any history fan’s time.
One issue I had with the performance was that the narrator had impeccable French. And to my provincial Yankee ears all the names sounded the same. That made it hard to keep track of the people. Everyone around Napoleon sounded like they had the same name.
Other than that though I did enjoy his delivery.

1 person found this helpful

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Breathtaking in scale, research, and performance!

I wish there were 6 stars to give this audio book. I enjoyed every last minute of it, 27+ hours and I wish it were longer, this is one of the best audio books I've ever experienced, The hard-to-believe story of Napoleon's life is on full display here, in all it's glory and tragedy. Anyone interested in his life will be happy to have this book as part of their library.

Adams Zamoyski's research and writing is perfectly done, and the narration of Leighton Pugh is masterful, this was a complete joy to listen to.

1 person found this helpful

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So good I listened twice, back to back.

The author tries to show Napoleon as a man of his time. It becomes clear that Napoleon was also a great narcissist as well as a most persuasive advocate of himself. He was exceptional in many ways and the history is told concisely and with enthusiasm for the history and the subject. Loved it.

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    4 out of 5 stars

Great history book, just not for me

Having listened to the entire production it I’m not sure this is a book I could have read from start to finish. I really do enjoy history and a lot of detail and backstory. And this book has all of those features and then some. However I am not enough of a Napoleonic aficionado to enjoy much more than what I took in with this book.

Many of the people who have reviewed this book have talked about the fact that so much of his military service and battlefield exploits are glossed over in the book. But the author preface is this very fact and letting us know this is more about who Napoleon was from birth to death. He was really focused on the person and all of his trials and tribulations and foibles versus once again documenting him as a military strategist.

One thing that is surprising to me is that the author seems to take a very candid view of Napoleon and all of his related health and psychological problems. I do not believe that he sugarcoats Napoleon in any way. He shows him in all his damaged humanity and takes him to task late in his career by exposing his ego and his inability to separate good military and governing strategies from his personal pettiness on various matters.

Again having not known much about him this was an enlightening book on many levels. But I do not know French and the amount of references in French while important to the story I didn’t enjoy having it sprinkled throughout the book. This is an unfair criticism as the book is about French history too. But that is part of why I couldn’t have read this book. Despite the audio recording being excellent, it was hard to wade thru as the listener.

I would not likely read or listen to this book again unless I had to go back to college and write a paper on Napoleon. This would be an excellent resource for that as the author has done tremendous work here. The book ultimately was just too much for me and I didn’t enjoy it despite the scholarship put into the work.

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An incredible life, well told and well performed

What an incredible life of a most wilful person, modernizing France, infrastructure as well as institutions. A bridge between divine right and man of the people. I think like many geniuses, complex and contradictory. He is able to rationalize any point of view if it suits the desired outcome.