I would have reviewed this title sooner, but I was laughing too hard! Thank you, Endeavor Press, for the complimentary DRC, which I received directly from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. Waugh’s clever, sly satire still has me snickering. Those with a rudimentary knowledge of European history should not let this one slide by unread. Laughter is good for you, and as long as you know the broad contours regarding Napoleon’s life, loves, and battles, I defy you to read this novel without chortling.
To start with, we have Jack and Peggy on a cruise together off the coast of Greece and through the Corinth Canal; the year is 1974. Jack is retired from the British Navy, and has saved for a long time in order to be able to visit great historic sites. His recent marriage to the glamorous Peggy, a divorcee considerably younger than himself, is the icing on the cake. He’s waited a very long time to see the sites of great historical events; later, he will recreate those of Napoleon with thousands of toy soldiers stored in the garage at home.
History bores Peggy, but she loves shopping whenever the ship docks. Spending money is the thing she loves best…not unlike the Empress Josephine, wife of the French legend Napoleon. In fact, Jack and Peggy have even named their only child Josephine.
I’ve read various other reviews that complain about the dysfunctional relationships within the protagonist’s family, and the shallow character development. I want to personally find each and every one of those clueless reviewers and—metaphorically only, of course—smack them upside the head. It’s not supposed to be about character development, get it? Read the title! Although the story itself is a sharp, satirical romp, you need some background knowledge or it will sail right over your head. You won’t understand the allegory without a frame of reference! If you know nothing about Napoleon, you won’t understand the humor.
None of it.
Once I latched onto what the author was doing, I was eager to see how far he would carry it, and to what extent Jack’s life would mirror that of Napoleon. At the end, as soon as I stopped sniggering, I could only shake my head in admiration. The basic contours are there, but one doesn’t have to be a scholar specializing in French history to enjoy the book; you just need the basics regarding Napoleon’s reign and fall.
Smart, smart satire, well worth your time and money…if you have a working knowledge of European history.