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Finding Napoleon

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Member Reviews

This book took a lot of time and a lot of soul. But it was worth it.


Finding Napoleon by Margaret Rodenberg is not your straightforward historical fiction of who was who, when, where and did what. It is an excquisite burrowing into human soul.

‘He was lucky, very lucky, until he was not’… Napoleon Bonaparte was lucky. He was lucky in fight, in politics and even in love. But was he? Was he lucky till the end?

Finding Napoleon places Emperor on St Helena, a distant, lost, hard island (part of British Empire) at the very end of Napoleon’s days. He is surrounded by what’s left of his court. But in all honesty, he is surrounded by hyenas.

The story in this book is multi-layered. It is about Napoleon’s last days and what’s transpired during his stay on St Helena, from befriending governor’s daughter to helping black slaves to revolt. But it is also about what humans are capable of to survive. Oh my, they are cabable of so much. They are able to stoop so low.

To see the events through the eyes of Napoleon and those close to him, to feel treason even before the words are out, to hear the rumblings of thunder and approaching ships that won’t bring freedom even before Napoleon has his last breath… Margaret Rodenberg has done an amazing job in creating a tight narrative of events and human nature, betrayal and hope, love and cruelty of cheating…

Yes, on top of everything else, readers are given an opportunity to see a very unexpected side to the great Corsican – his writing. Napoleon is writing a novel. He is writing it as much for his son (left in Austria with his mother) as for himself – to see himself, to prove himself and to forgive himself…

This is a very deep, soulful, touching read.
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Not an uninteresting book, but I haven't felt drawn into it. I read about half of it and meant to come back to it later, but in the end, never did.
I couldn't relate to the characters and there wasn't much of a plot. I didn't appreciate the inclusion of parts of the book written by Napoleon, it didn't give more of an insight into who he was. In the end, I didn't learn as much about Napoleon and this particular period as I expected. On top of everything, the summary sold it as a romance but there was nothing romantic about Napoleon and his greedy mistress, plus some scenes were a bit too graphic for me.
Not my cup of tea.

*I received an eARC and this is my honest opinion*
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I would actually give this 2.5 stars. While the writing was excellent, and I could tell the author did a great deal of research, the book just didn't captivate my attention. I don't think the format worked for me, as the reader. Napoleon's book was interwoven with the actual narrative, and then the amount of open door romance was just too graphic for my reading preferences.
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Thanks to NetGalley and the author for an ARC of this book in exchange of an honest review

I unfortunately had to DNF this book at 45 percent. Having reached almost half of it, I never felt connected to any of the characters and I was bored most of the time as nothing in their lives made me interested. And we need to keep in mind this is historical fiction based on one of the most controversial, passionate, outstanding, loved and hated figures in world history –Napoleon Bonaparte- but still, I felt there was not plot nor pace to keep my attention on the story.

For me, the book’s two main faults centered on:

1. The assumption that the reader knows a lot about Napoleon and this specific historical period. While I agree that in order to read a book about this figure you should have some previous background that at first drew your interest in, the truth is that if you have a basic knowledge, the book won’t clarify anything nor provide context to understand what is going on. This might be at times confusing. There are no dates, no clear reference to when events of the past occurred, etc. There is not even an indication of where St. Helene is located and even though I consider my geography knowledge to be quite decent, I had no idea where the story was taking place.

2. The synopsis is very misleading, not only because it hints it will be a romance but also because it literally says: “A forgotten woman of history—the audacious Albine de Montholon—narrates their tale of intrigue, love, and betrayal.” The story did not seem a romance to me and it is definitely not narrated by Albine. The novel is told from the interchanged perspectives of Napoleon and Albine, and I would dare say Napoleon’s voice surpasses that of Albine. In terms of the ‘romance’ I found it odd that, at least in the 45 percent I read, I never felt the couple developed an interaction or a profound relationship. Albine was his mistress and she had her own interests in sleeping with the former emperor, and therefore, the only interaction we get to see –at least through almost half of the novel I read- is them being in bed. No serious or profound conversations there so the premise of “Napoleon seen in the eyes of a woman who loved him” was non-existent.

Overall, the book had all the elements to be an outstanding historical fiction but something was missing. There is certainly a cast of characters which is diverse and could have provided a very interesting picture of the society on an isolated island: there are conversations on slavery, racism, cultural differences and yet, I felt none were truly represented because the characters were very plain. I do not know how else to describe it. Once again, I did not finish the book but I feel that if you’ve read a third of any story, there should be something that makes characters appealing and this never happened.

Also, I was not interested in the actual novel Napoleon wrote, Clisson. The author puts parts of this novel in between Napoleon and Albine’s interventions, but I was not really interested and felt its placement a bit forced within the pages of this book.

I think this novel could work for those who love really slow-paced stories and who have a very clear idea of Napoleon and his life in which case, this story might present an innovative fictionalized perspective. Unfortunately, it was not the book for me. I wanted to be invested in the story not only because these were great historical figures but also because they lived in very complex historical times and yet, I found none of this richness within the pages of these book.
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This historical fiction book about Napoleon's years when exiled on St Helenas Island seems well researched, but it is a big ask to pull off a story about such a giant historical figure who has had so much written about him. The location details were engaging and the book generally quite well written, but I found the pace rather stuttering.
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I was so intrigued by this book, being a lover of historical fiction but knowing little about this well-known historical figure. Rosenberg brings Napoleon to life by re-imagining his life (based on an incredible amount of research) and interweaving her writing with Napoleon’s own novel Clisson et Eugénie, making much of the book truly auto-biographical. I feel like this book would be thoroughly enjoyed by anyone who already knows a lot about him, as it gives incredible details.

The character of Albine was also really well developed and I enjoyed hearing her voice through the story, I actually enjoyed these sections the most. The complex relationships were interesting to read.

I enjoyed the authors inclusion of historical context and facts at the end.

Unfortunately, I did not find the story very engaging and the first half felt very slow, as a result I found it difficult to get into. Nonetheless, I appreciate how well written this book is and as a result would still recommend for anyone interested in Napoleon and/or French history.
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A well researched historical fiction novel about Napoleons years exiled on St Helenas island, guarded by the British Empire. 
The book starts strong, moves along at a good pace and I enjoyed getting to know the characters. The novel is complex, thought provoking and tragic. Learning more about Napoleon the man is really interesting and I loved hearing about St Helenas. 
Unfortunately I struggled with the flow and pace once Napoleon started writing his novel and was on the island. It seemed to slow down and his novel breaks up the chapters too much for me. 
It was good to hear from the author in the afterword about her research and what parts of the story were true and what has been added.
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Before reading this I did not know much about Napoleon Bonaparte. I love a good historical fiction novel that brings you into a story with richly drawn characters and enough history that you learn something. While this book is beautifully written it is a chore to get through. This novel is slow moving and I found myself dreading it. It follows Napoleon during his final days as Emperor and his second exile on St. Helena until his death. A few “trusted” confidants join him on the island, including Albine de Monthlon and her husband. Napoleon and Albine begin a love affair, but it’s not as advertised. It’s basically two people with no other options while trapped on an island together. Albine is a quick witted but desperate woman who has been handed a bad hand in life. She truly cares for the Emperor and dreams of him retaining his greatness with her by his side. One major obstacle is Albine’s husband who is playing both sides in a deadly game of espionage. Between the  alternating chapters of Napoleon’s and Albine’s points of view is Napoleon’s long lost manuscript, Clisson, which is loosely based on Napoleon’s own life. While these chapters were more entertaining than the Napoleon and Albine chapters they were still filled with unlikeable characters. The problem with this novel is the characters themselves. Not one of them is likable. They are all horrible, narcissistic people who are only looking out for themselves. I feel the author did the best she could with the material she had at her disposal. The novel is well researched and the writing is poignant, but the subject matter was just not for me. Thank you to NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.
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Incredibly well written and researched. I just loved it! Such a beautiful story and it really made me want to know more about these two wonderful characters.
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Finding Napoleon is quite a satisfying book, superbly researched, told  throughout by Albine de Montholon, Napoleon’s mistress on St. Helena.  Once I started this novel it was difficult to put down as it pulled me right in.  I am a fan of historical fiction and found that this debut was absolutely stunning.  I look forward to what comes next from Ms. Rodenberg.  My thanks to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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An interesting account of Napoleon’s later years, with stories of his complicated life, his lovers, and his family. His adventures included sea voyages, as well as life in different lands. As a young man, Napoleon wrote a novel, and author took a most inventive approach in including the surviving parts of this novel along with her own additions. 

This ebook was given to me by NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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Margaret Rodenberg brings us a story of Emperor Napoleon’s defeat and his exile on the Island of Helena in what is still, consider to this day, one of the most remote Island on earth. Finding Napoleon is about his final years and his plot to escape the Island and rescue his son. While on the Island, trust in the people surrounding him is quite the skill to say the least.

In the beginning, I felt as if the characters were moving parts in a play. Told where to stand, what to say and when to say it. I’m not sure that makes much sense but, in better words, I felt very little for them and that very well may be the point. Napoleon was using them and they were using him. We aren’t meant to have warm and fuzzy feelings for these people. They weren’t exactly pillars of society in terms of being moral and honest people. In my opinion, they were opportunist. As for the people of the Island, Tobyson, Hercules and Betsy were good people and despite Napoleon’s faults, they held him in high regard.

While Napoloen’s love affair with Albine wasn’t particularly “romantic”, I felt the author’s portrayal of their relationship realistic. That said, I still haven’t completely decided how I feel about Albine or her relations with Napoleon for that matter. Afterall, she was a married woman and I don’t say this with naivety. I’m well aware of the culture during that time. Maybe she felt she had to do what she did for survival.

Albine is a complex woman and people considered her a liar and a loose woman. Though many of the very people who said those things about her, were no better. In the end, she made good on a promise to Napoleon and I had to admire her for that. I would like to believe that leaving that Island and her changed circumstances in life, made her a better person in the end.

I feel Rosenberg depicted Napoleon’s ego as how I have always imagined it to be. Napoleon is intelligent and he very well knows it. He is always scheming and, in my opinion, using people for his own purpose and pleasures. He was a master manipulator. Despite his thirst for his own glory or survival-if you will-I found his interest in the world and how things worked intriguing to read about. He is a good listener and you do see a softer side to him in this story but I remain-rightfully so- suspicious of his motives.

I’ve read many novels about Napoleon but very little of his time on St. Helena or the end of his life in-depth such as this one. Nor was I familiar with the fact he began to write a story that was unfinished. That was exciting to learn and it intrigued me enough to read this book and wanting to know the author’s take on the history. I can’t help but wonder what his life would have been life if he had chosen a different path. He could have possibly done so much good with his intellect and charismatic personality.

You are reading two different stories with Finding Napoleon and how Rosenberg beautifully weaves Napoleon’s writing efforts into the time line and expanding on the story, is close to brilliant.

I appreciate the author’s obvious fascination with Napoleon. He is definitely a hot topic for discussion and this fact certainly shows in this book.

I recommend Finding Napoleon to readers who are already familiar with Napoleon’s life before his stay on the Island.

Stephanie Hopkins
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Flipping between the perspectives of Napoleon Bonaparte & Albine de Montholon during his exile on the island of Saint Helena. This book takes on the final years of Napoleon's life after he's lost it all including plots to escape, betrayal & passion. 

For such a famous name I know next to nothing about Napoleon Bonaparte and Finding Napoleon sent me down the Google rabbit hole to know more. I loved the Clisson story that is also woven into this book. That the author took a real tale Napoleon had written and made it her own was so clever. I think it would have been interesting to have more perspective from the other characters besides Napoleon & Albine. The book at times also felt a little long but the authors note at the end tied everything together for me.
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Being an avid Napoleon junkie- this book intrigued me.  Very factual + well written.  Very interesting to read different viewpoints from those if read before.  Napoleon''s speech and the ideas presented very much like the way I felt he would speak.
Overall a very good read.
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I have always been fascinated with Napoleon Bonaparte, so I was naturally attracted to this novel by Margaret Rodenberg.  One aspect of the book that I fully appreciated was the appendix at the end where the author explained the facts and fiction regarding this piece of historical fiction.  I highly recommend that any reader of this book not overlook it.  It is well worth reading.
      I had never heard of Napoleon’s novel here entitled just “Clisson.” According to the author, the real title is “Clisson et Eugénie.” I enjoyed the insight it gives into Napoleon’s  life, as it is in a sense autobiographical .  It helps the reader understand his personality and his personal beliefs.  By writing it as interspersed with the chronological life of Napoleon in his years on St. Helen’s, Margaret Rodenberg makes the account more interesting. It would be a good companion to other non-fictional resources about Napoleon’s life.
      One reason I was drawn to “Finding Napoleon “ was that I was curious about Napoleon’s final years.  I encountered few books written that aspect of his life. Any books I did read just briefly touched upon his exile.  For those who are also looking for more information about the exile, I recommend this book to them.
       I really enjoyed this novel.  It was easy to read, interesting, and a quick read.   Obviously, I highly recommend it.
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Finding Napoleon follow Napoleon Bonaparte throughout his exile on St. Helena. This novel brings him to life in a way that the pages of history never do and gives a different perspective of the military leader.  This one was a bit hard to get into, though I can understand why some people would enjoy the read.
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I really enjoyed this book. As a history buff I’ve found Napoleon’s life and achievements fascinating, because of their impact on European history. In “Finding Napoleon” we meet a Napoleon, who is in reduced circumstances after the Battle of Waterloo, but who has not truly conceded defeat. In exile on St. Helena, he is accompanied by a select few including Albine de Montholon. Albine is the wife of one of his generals and an aristocratic survivor of the French revolution, who becomes Napoleon’s last mistress.

While reading this book I found that Margaret Rodenberg did a great job of seamlessly combining the novel begun by a young Napoleon with his time in exile. The novel helps us get a glimpse into the mind of this contradictory man and allows us to better understand his relationship to Albine. Throughout the course of the novel I found myself sympathizing with these characters even though neither are what one would consider to be good people. Albine is very much the product fo the French Revolution. Having narrowly escaped execution, she is left with a severe case of PTSD and a desire for safety that she can never seem to obtain. Throughout the story she is caught between her husband and Napoleon. She loves them both in her own way and both men seek to use her for their own purposes. Though her choices are questionable, I feel bad for this woman who had experienced so many horrors in her life and found herself with few choices.

Then there is Napoleon himself. As his novel shows, Napoleon is also a product of revolution. First in Corsica and then in France. Yet while both revolutions espoused radical change neither were ultimately able to fully bring them about. It is little wonder then that while Napoleon sought to overturn the world order he also floundered in the attempt, as exemplified by his actions in Haiti. Meanwhile, his relationship with women seems to be colored by his relationship with his mother. While it may sound Freudian, Albine, Eugenie and his beloved Josephine remind me of how Napoleon describes his mother. All three women use their bodies for advancement and are faithless. Napoleon seems to reject all three, but at the same time is helplessly drawn to them.

Overall, I give this book a 5 out of 5. The plot is engaging and the author does a great job of getting the reader to sympathize with the main characters. I found the ending very poignant and a perfect way to end this story. If you enjoy reading about history then I think this is definitely the book for you.
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Rodenberg’s novel offers an interpretation of Napoleon’s final years—from his loss at the Battle of Waterloo to his final days of exile at St. Helena. The book is effectively a remembrance of things past, as Napoleon reflects upon his fragmentary novella Clisson et Eugénie. Discussions of prosperity and success, family, friendship and loyalties among brothers in arms, loves and betrayals abound. There’s upset, hope for change, understanding and a final acceptance. 

The scenes involving Napoleon and his novella are counterbalanced by the story of Albine de Montholon, Napoleon’s mistress. Like one of Balzac’s later heroines, Albine is a woman of ambition, chasing money and recognition through deception. Some of her wily deeds are tempered by a maternal drive; however, her drive for survival keeps that underlying hardness ever present.

Readers who’ve studied French history and know the story of Napoleon and his relationships may find some inconsistencies in this fictional interpretation, however. For instance, there’s no mention of Albine’s other daughter, or her other two sons (she had three). Also, the story’s progression may confuse some readers, as years may pass from one chapter section to the next. The sections told from Napoleon and Albine’s points of view don’t include introductory dates, unlike the sections detailing Napoleon’s novella.
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What a clearly well researched book, on a larger than life figure who sometimes has a lot of misconceptions associated with him. 

This book is a fiction, but historical fact based, look at Napoleon after he was exiled to St. Helena. Margaret Rodenberg’s characterization of Napoleon is extremely impressive with her clear research and all the facets of his personality were brought to life. 

The writing style had a lyrical quality to it, which was lovely to read. I enjoyed having parts of Napoleon’s novels included. What I didn’t really love was Albine’s voice in this, it just didn’t seem to have the depth that the rest of the book had, mostly because while I thought Albine was a complex character, her relationship with Napoleon fell flat. 

This was an interesting book to read since there’s been many books where Napoleon getting exiled is mentioned, but getting a story about his plotting and life on St. Helena was a great read. 

Thanks to Netgalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
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It would be hard to argue that to write a novel about a mythical and ambivalent historical figure such as Napoleon, would be no easy feat in any respect, yet Margaret Rodenberg has brilliantly risen to the challenge and successfully managed to give a us a magnificent historical novel about a defeated statesman at the end of his life. A delightful and captivating read from start to finish, the story follows the emperor's life on the island of St Helena and all the political shenanigans surrounding his court in exile. Deftly narrated by Albine de Montholon, Napoleon's lover, this magnificent and fascinating historical tapestry is full of intrigues, sadness and very accurate details about the demise of the glorious imperial adventure. As we are getting ready overhere in France to commemorate the 200th anniversary 
of our former emperor’s death in British custody, (despite his mixed legacy and if the dreadful virus allows it) many books are getting published about the Empire's twilight years. 
But Ms. Rodenberg's very accomplished fictional account of Napoleon's later years has been the first one I have had the pleasure to read in English. It's perfect and it should be enjoyed without moderation. C'est sublime👏👏

Many thanks to Netgalley and She Writes Press for giving me the opportunity to read this wonderful novel
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