‘Glorious… Scurr is one of the most gifted non-fiction writers alive’ Simon Schama, Financial Times
A revelatory portrait of Napoleon written for our own time, exploring his love of nature and the gardens that gave his revolutionary life its light and shade.
Napoleon’s gardens range from his childhood olive groves in Corsica, to Josephine’s menageries in Paris, to the walled garden of Hougoumont at the battle of Waterloo, and ultimately to St Helena, where he could sit and scan the sea in his final months.
In this innovative biography, Ruth Scurr follows the dramatic trajectory of Napoleon’s life through the land he cultivated and that offered him retreat from the manifold frustrations of war and politics. Seen through the eyes of those who knew him in the shade of his gardens, Napoleon emerges a giant figure made human – both as the Emperor hunting for glory and the man in an old straw hat, leaning on his spade.
‘Immensely satisfying and captivating… Charming and intelligent’ Andrew Roberts, TLS
‘Grippingly original’ The Times
‘A delight to read’ Daily Telegraph
* A Book of the Year in The Times, Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, Financial Times, Sunday Telegraph and History Today *
Glorious . . . Scurr has achieved something remarkable: a completely original book on a completely unoriginal subject. But then she is herself a truly remarkable writer, one of the most gifted non-fiction authors alive -- Simon Schama * Financial Times * Ruth Scurr, a politics don at Cambridge University, has ingeniously somehow found an entirely new prism through which to view Napoleon: as a horticulturist . . . an immensely satisfying and captivating book . . . charming and intelligent -- Andrew Roberts * Times Literary Supplement * Ruth Scurr's imaginative take on Napoleon's life serves up fascinating insights into the man's behaviour and motivations, as well as an illuminating account of those around him. The gardening angle is fresh and perfectly developed; to garden is to control and manipulate, an empire builder does the same -- Penelope Lively An elegant prose stylist, Scurr is above all a fabulous historian, and a vivid storyteller with a novelist's eye for engaging detail . . . Napoleon emerges not in his warrior guise but in his full humanity . . . History's palimpsest emerges in these pages too, through Scurr's accounts of modern-day places shaped by Napoleon's vision: while his empire is the stuff of history books, his legacy as a landscape genius endures -- Claire Messud * Harper's Magazine * Napoleon: A Life in Gardens and Shadows is history at its most enjoyable, a discursive ramble along its edges, away from matters of power and into its byways . . . Napoleon is a delight to read and must have been an immense pleasure to research -- Caroline Moorehead * Literary Review *
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