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Napoleon

Soldier of Destiny
Narrated by: Simon Vance
Length: 20 hrs and 31 mins
4 out of 5 stars (5 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Written with great energy and authority - and using the newly available personal archives of Napoleon himself - the first volume of a majestic two-part biography of the great French emperor and conqueror.

All previous lives of Napoleon have relied more on the memoirs of others than on his own uncensored words. This is the first life of Napoleon, in any language, that makes full use of his newly released personal correspondence compiled by the Napoleon Foundation in Paris.

Michael Broers' biography draws on the thoughts of Napoleon himself as his incomparable life unfolded. It reveals a man of intense emotion, but also of iron self-discipline; of acute intelligence and immeasurable energy. Tracing his life from its dangerous Corsican roots, through his rejection of his early identity, and the dangerous military encounters of his early career, it tells the story of the sheer determination, ruthlessness, and careful calculation that won him the precarious mastery of Europe by 1807. After the epic battles of Austerlitz, Jena, and Friedland, France was the dominant land power on the continent.

Here is the first biography of Napoleon in which this brilliant, violent leader is evoked to give the listener a full, dramatic, and all-encompassing portrait.

©2015 Michael Broers (P)2019 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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Clarity

I'm generally allergic to multi-volume biographies: there aren't many people I'm willing to commit that much time to. I'm especially irked when a two-part biography suddenly expands into three parts. But for Napoleon, I have to make an exception.

Michael Broers has done a remarkable job laying out the arc of Napoleon’s career, up to (but not including) the War of the Third Coalition. His overall plan leaves him with plenty of space to fill in the blanks, and he provides another example of that paradox — that a rich bed of underlying detail can actually bring greater clarity rather than complexity to an account.

And so he brings clarity to Napoleon's domestic achievements — the consolidation of French law chief among them; to the aftermath of his first Italian campaign; to the complexity of his relationships with his brothers Joseph and Lucien; to the state of his marriage to Josephine; to the expansion of Napoleon's ambitions from First Consul to Emperor; to his brutal suppression of slave revolts in the Caribbean; and especially to the forces that gave rise to the Third Coalition.

The clarity is aided by Simon Vance’s reading, which is always the epitome of straightforward, well-paced narration. I see that the second volume is available in print. I hope it will soon be available in audio as well, and that Vance is able to bring his skills to this and to the third and final (?) volume.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful