Friday, April 29, 2011

Elysium by Diane Scott Lewis

Diane Scott Lewis’ second novel brings new tension to an event from history through the eyes of a young girl infatuated by her hero.  Napoleon Bonaparte, the scourge of Europe, is brought by the British to the volcanic Island of St Helena in the South Atlantic.

Napoleon was jaded by the women in his life, military defeat and treachery. Through his eyes the reader comes to understand how he feels about his devastating defeat at Waterloo and imprisonment by the English, whom he imagined would treat him as an honoured guest. The fact that his escape from Elba and the carnage he went on to inflict at Waterloo appears to have escaped him. When his requests for some home comforts, including a list of library of books, are accompanied with a bill, he realises the British don’t hold him in the esteem he thinks he deserves.

Ensconced with a small group of loyal, if sycophantic and self-serving friends, Napoleon must fight severe restrictions, constant surveillance by British troops et to guard him, and boredom - until he hears a beautiful voice singing in the courtyard of his ramshackle residence.

Amélie Perrault, the daughter of Napoleon’s chef, is a young woman of deep compassion and intelligence. She is also an accomplished cook under the teachings of her father, and an admirer of Bonaparte. Incensed at his treatment, she rails against the disrespectful English officers who refuse to give her hero the proper respect she feels is his due.

The subject of a certain amount of jealousy due to the former Emperor's attentions, Amélie becomes caught up in the political intrigues of the small community as it comes to light that someone on the island is intent on murdering Napoleon. While the former Emperor plans to escape his captors and regain his empire, this unlikely couple strive to uncover the identity of this assassin and somewhere along the line, they fall in love.

Ms Scott Lewis brings life to a piece of European history with her beautifully written and intricately detailed prose, bringing a satisfactory conclusion that may not have been Napoleon's ultimate fate, but is a satisfactory one for these two lovers.

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