Asprey, a former marine officer and military historian (Frederick the Great), has produced the first volume of a new two-volume biography of a man who was not only one of the greatest generals in history, but also instrumental in the formation of modern Europe. Covering the period from Napoleon's birth in 1769 to his brilliant victory at Austerlitz in 1805, Asprey charts his subject's rise through military school and his path through the treacherous byways of the French Revolution. Though there is a tendency in the earlier portions of this book to reduce the Revolution to a reign of terror, making it difficult to explain why Napoleon would have been such a fervent follower of the radical Jacobins, Asprey generally provides clear explanations of the political environment in which Napoleon acted. The story of the campaign in Italy that brought the young general his first fame is well told in its military, political and diplomatic aspects, and Asprey's fascinating account of the campaign in Egypt is particularly valuable. Here the author corrects misconceptions of Napoleon's actions, such as the notorious "abandonment" of the French army in Egypt. The military aspects of the story tend to overwhelm the narrative in the final chapters, and a summary chapter would have been helpful. But the chapters are bite-sized, and the text is easy, so this book should find a wide readership among those who enjoy biography, history and military history. Illus. (Dec.) Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Perhaps my letdown by this book was inevitable coming as it did immediately after my reading of Doris Kearns Goodwin's demythification of Lincoln's human leadership power (see my review of Team of Rivals). Neither subject nor author could measure up here. In any case, this "battlefield biography" never really tells who Napoleon was, but what he did on the field of battle, and that with an over-reliance on secondary sources and unsupported generalizations and opinions. T … more
This is a well-written biography of Napoleon that hits the highlights of the first part of his career. It appears to cover just about all of the events of his life to the battle of Austerlitz, and it does so in a fairly breezy style that doesn't spend a lot of time discussing the boring, mundane details. Even the military sections are rather quickly written, and you don't get bogged down in the intricate details of strategy, which to me is a definite plus. There were a few typos in the book, and … more