Wednesday, November 14, 2007

From Napoleon to the Ladies of the French Revolution

The headline says it all. I was looking my bookshelves the other day and quickly realized that I noticed a theme among five books. They were all focused heavily on the French Revolution, the lives of those who were involved and in the mysteries of Napoleon, the epic figure who arrived at the tale end of a devastating revolution to serve as a centralizing figure for a nation that had lost its very center.

Napoleon's Pyramids by William Dietrich
Thriller Fiction - Paperback - Dec., 2008

Ethan Gage, an American living in Paris at the end of the French Revolution and former apprentice of Benjamin Franklin, wins a curious Egyptian medallion in a poker game. His luck isn't all that great after the medallion comes into his possession as he finds himself attacked by thieves, chased by the police, and worst of all, befriended by Gypsies. Ethan finally finds himself in the hands of a British spy and soon after finds himself joined up in Napoleon's Army heading for Egypt. What follows is an action-packed thriller with semi-naked women, battle scenes, mysteries of the pharaohs, mathematical puzzles, and a whole lot more. Dietrich is known for detailed historical thrillers and Napoleon's Pyramids lives up to all expectations. Stay tuned for an interview with William Dietrich in the near future.

Annette Vallon: A Novel of the French Revolution
By James Tipton
Historical Fiction - Hardcover - Nov., 2007

Inspired by the work of the famous English romance poetWilliam Wadsworth who was writing just as the French Revolution was breaking out, author James Tipton has written a historical fiction centered around Wadsworth's French lover Annette Vallon (1766–1841). There is historical evidence that points to Annette having met Wadsworth as he was leaving France as things were getting kind of sticky but returned as the Revolution was dying down in order to meet his child with Annette, Caroline. I hasten to say any more as I believe this is quite a good novel. It took me a bit of time tracing down the proper publicist in order to get a copy of this book but after looking at it and reading a bit I believe it was certainly worth the time.

The Strange Death of Napoleon Bonaparte by Dr. Jerry Labriola
Thriller Fiction - Hardcover - Nov., 2007

This is another suspense novel tauted for its fiction and rich historical detail. Labriola uses for his central character international treasure hunter, Paul D'Arneau. The action begins to take place when Paul is approached by the Gens de Verite, an ancient and secretive organization formed in France after the fall of Napoleon in 1815. The organization wants Paul's help in looking into one of history's greatest mysteries -- the death of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Was the cause of his death, the organization asks, part of a murder plot or simply a natural affair?

Mirage: Napoleon's Scientists and the Unveiling of Egypt By Nina Burleigh
History - Hardcover - Nov., 2007

Author Nina Burleigh is an accomplished journalist who reported for Time magazine in Iraq in the 1990s. With Mirage she has written a very detailed book about Napoleon Bonaparte's march to Egypt with the French army beneath him (the same instance that has been discussed earlier in the post). The focus of Burleigh's book is upon the band of scholars, astronomers, mathematicians, naturalists, physicists, doctors, chemists, engineers, botanists, artists—even a poet and a musicologist, who travelled with on what ended up being a failed and tragic journey from which many of the scholars and Napoleon's men never returned. The scholars that did return came back with vast amounts of information which they turned into an amazing work that provided a first look at a lost civilization. I certainly recommend reading this book. Burleigh's approach to this historical adventure is refreshing and very approachable -- history for the non historian.

Mistress of the Revolution by Catherine Delors
Historical Fiction - Hardback - March, 2008

This is another one of the upcoming novels that I have been looking forward to. The moment I read the description by Dutton I knew that I had to figure out a way to get a copy and to talk to Delors. Mistress of the Revolution takes place from the vantage point of Gabrielle de Montserrat, a lady in the service of Marie Antionette who suffers for love and finds herself wound up in the decadence that was part of royal life at the French court. Soon, however, the French Revolution begins to unfold, bringing with it new ideas about society and the very notion of royalty and nobility. All of those who spent time at court and operated within court circles find themselves at risk. Gabrielle finds herself before the Revolutionary Tribune with her head quite literally on the chopping block. Serving on the tribune set to make the decision about her life or death? The one man she's loved but was forced to leave for a marriage to a wealthy baron. Reader be warned, this book is no light romantic novel lacking substance. Delors has written a very cunning novel of life at the French court and the tenuous days that took place after the monarchy's fall and a revolutionary fervor takes hold of the nation.


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