16.8.13

THE EMPEROR'S BODY, by Peter Brooks

The front story of this well-written book is the exhumation of Napoleon I's body from the end-of-the-world island of St. Helena. The plan is to return the body to France for re-burial in the Invalides (where you can see it today...the tomb, not the body a la Lenin). The novel's other stories, so skilfully woven you will barely notice, involve a well-known, ageing author; an aristocratic young diplomat; and a young upper-class woman who is not your ordinary simpering wife-to-be. Two of the side stories are the vicious political games played in France during that time (echoes of the USA!), the last days of Marie Antoinette (including a chilling recollection of the guillotine in operation), and the suspense as Napoleon's body is exhumed: is there a body in the casket and is it the Emperor's? The author presently teaches at Princeton; his deft handling of all the issues is smooth as silk..and the final chapter comes as a bit of a surprise. A 4+; could be a good book group choice.