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Napoleon

A Life
Written by: Adam Zamoyski
Narrated by: Leighton Pugh
Length: 27 hrs and 10 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (27 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The definitive biography of Napoleon, revealing the true man behind the legend.

"What a novel my life has been!" Napoleon once said of himself. Born into a poor family, the callow young man was, by 26, an army general. Seduced by an older woman, his marriage transformed him into a galvanizing military commander. The Pope crowned him as Emperor of the French when he was only 35. Within a few years, he became the effective master of Europe, his power unparalleled in modern history. His downfall was no less dramatic.

The story of Napoleon has been written many times. In some versions, he is a military genius, in others a war-obsessed tyrant. Here, historian Adam Zamoyski cuts through the mythology and explains Napoleon against the background of the European Enlightenment, and what he was himself seeking to achieve. This most famous of men is also the most hidden of men, and Zamoyski dives deeper than any previous biographer to find him. Beautifully written, Napoleon brilliantly sets the man in his European context.

©2018 Adam Zamoyski (P)2018 Hachette Audio

What the critics say

"Napoleon is an out and out masterpiece and a joy to read." (Sir Antony Beevor, author of Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege)

"A biography of Napoleon Bonaparte that avoids the well-established military details and gives us the story of a singular man...Illuminating." (Kirkus)

"Zamoyski tells the personal side of Napoleon's life...his hopes, his dreams, his self-doubts." (New York Journal of Books)

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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellently put together and performed biography

I just loved this story, I knew very little about napolen and now am a big fan of his story it is captivating and fascinating to imagine that his novel like life actually happened. An amazing tidvut of history that people should spend the time to learn. Sure the narrator could have better French or Italian pronunciation but thags not a real downfall.

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Great narration. Historically biased writing.

My main problem with this book is that the author goes beyond the facts and inserts his own narrative.

It's fine to point out when Napoleon said something that the facts don't support. It's also fair to draw comparisons of alleged war crimes with actions taken by other countries commonly at the time.

What's not fine as an historian is to insert your own moral judgements into the text. Let the reader conclude from the data what to believe about Napoleon. Don't outright tell the reader that what he did was good, or what he did was bad. It's also not fine to put yourself into Napoleon's mind and assert his motives throughout his life. Stick to the facts as we know them, outlining how we've come to know them, but stop there.

No complaints about the audio work. It's top notch.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 2019-04-01

Fascinating

There are two books by the same name,” Napoleon: A Life”. This one is by Zamoyski and was published in 2019. The other is by Andrew Roberts and published in 2015. I read it in 2015 and found it to be an outstanding biography of Napoleon. The reason I decided to read Zamoyski’s book was his attempt to debunk the fantasy, myth and exaggeration of Napoleon’s life. Zamoyski attempts to reveal more about Napoleon’s personal life than did Roberts.

The book is well written and researched. Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) has had so much written about him. I have been fascinated by Napoleon since I was a child. Therefore, I have read much written about him. A book must have a hook or different approach to entice me to read it. Zamoyski primarily portrays Napoleon as a self-made opportunist. The author attempts to reveal Napoleon’s skills and talents as well as his flaws. Zamoyski states Napoleon was a tactician not a strategist. That is the opposite opinion from most historians. Napoleon was gifted in many areas from mathematics to logistics. He also imposed his theory of how governments should operate on Europe. He also rewrote the legal system and it is still in use today. Zamoyski continued the falsehood about Napoleon’s height. He was 5’7” which was the average height of a French man in that era. This book is easy to read and well worth the effort.

The book is twenty-seven hours and ten minutes. Leighton Pugh does a good job narrating the book. Pugh is an actor and audiobook narrator.

50 of 52 people found this review helpful

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  • Raul
  • United States
  • 2019-05-26

Excellent biography

I have read many biographies and this is one of the best. It is very well balanced; it doesn’t ignore Napoleon’s failures nor it deifies him.
Highly recommended.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • James Obrien
  • Richmond VA
  • 2019-07-15

Great introduction to Napoleon.

I had only a thumbnail sketch of Napoleon before this book. And that involved a lot of the popular myths about him.
But this book does a fantastic job of providing an objective account of his life. The author provides direct quotes from Napoleon’s contemporaries for color. When the true facts are unknown he is careful to state so and offer reasonable possibilities to what Napoleon May have been thinking at the time backed up by evidence.
Napoleon was a fascinating person and full of contradictions. He’s worth any history fan’s time.
One issue I had with the performance was that the narrator had impeccable French. And to my provincial Yankee ears all the names sounded the same. That made it hard to keep track of the people. Everyone around Napoleon sounded like they had the same name.
Other than that though I did enjoy his delivery.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Sarah Kurasz
  • 2019-09-10

Wrapping up my trot through French history

So my knowledge of Napoleon before this book was learned from about an hour and a half long footnote at the end of a series of lectures on the French revolution and from his brief appearances in Les Mis and War and Peace. After this book, I feel like I'm a lot wiser. It was frequently interesting and informative.

I'm giving it four stars instead of five though because 1) the narrator wasn't the most engaging narrator and 2) there were points where I felt like whole sections of time were just glossed over and I was left with questions. Still, I thought it was in interesting book and a good overview of Napoleon and the period he so heavily influenced.

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  • A. Wenzel
  • San Francisco, CA United States
  • 2019-09-01

Fantastic

this book is a wonderful introduction to Napoleon the legend and force. I found it very easy to follow and incredibly informative. The material is solid and the narrator does a wonderful job with names and places in multiple languages. If you are interested in learning about the Corsican who made himself a general at 26 and later an emperor, read it!

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  • Bryan
  • 2019-08-17

Great book, great narration

It's a fascinating, unvarnished look into Napoleon's life that should be read far more for it's focus on the man rather than his exploits. The politics can be hard to follow for those unfamiliar with French history and the military tactics are given minimal detap at times

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  • Jeffrey Marshall
  • 2019-08-16

Good but wanted better

It was hard to follow the details as the author jumped around too much without good transition. But a very detailed account of his life nonetheless.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2019-08-08

Superb

Absolutely lovely experience. read out masterfully. almost made me cry at the end. the only reason I didn't cry was because I was on the subway.

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  • maridell monnheimer
  • 2019-08-05

A focused overview of Napoleon

This book provides the reader with a great depiction of Napoleon not only as emperor but as the ambitious young soldier, who continuously grasped for more power to achieve his goals and “follow is star”.

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  • Lenny
  • 2019-07-31

Thank you for a super great book

Thank you for discovering so much interesting life stories about an extraordinarily man as Napoleon...