Tag Archives: Napoleon

Review and Giveaway: The Last Campaign of Marianne Tambour by David Ebsworth

Today I welcome France Book Tours back to the blog with a historical fiction novel set during the last campaign of Napoleon at Waterloo.  I invite you to read my review, learn a bit about the author, and enter to win your own copy (open internationally).

My Review:
The Last CampaignThe historical novels that I seem to enjoy the most are the ones that provide the most rich detail about the period in which they are set.  David Ebsworth’s novel about The Battle of Waterloo is one such novel.  It is the story of Marianne Tambour who is the canteen mistress to Napoleon and his troops.  She rides around camp with a barrel on her hip, doling out brandy to the Emperor and his men.  The camp is a dangerous place and an especially harsh environment for a woman.  Marianne must stay alive, carry out her duties as canteen mistress, and also try to keep her daughter safe.

Ebsworth makes the camp and the battlefield come alive for the reader.  The scenes are bloody, and raw and realistic; we feel the awful circumstances of soldiers marching, living in camp and dying in battle.  This period in French history is also very complex and the author is able to sort out the various sides of this conflict for us.  Napoleon has been in exile after being deposed and the Bourbon king, whom the characters in the book call “Fat Louis” has been on the throne for about a year.  But when Napoleon manages to call up a few hundred thousand troops, Louis immediately flees and the country is once again divided along various political alliances.

It is also worth mentioning that the author includes several detailed maps of the battlefield and troop movements at the end of the book.  Once again, this is a detail that is not only impressive, but will be very much appreciated by readers who like a visual outline of the routes that are mentioned in the narrative.  Ebsworth also gives us a glossary of French terms which I found most helpful in deciphering some of the vocabulary that he uses throughout the text.

Ebsworth provides us with strong female characters that we want to see survive amid a horrible and futile battle.  If you are in search of a historical fiction novel that brings to life Napoleon’s last battle and the volatile political scene of 19th century France, then I highly recommend THE LAST CAMPAIGN OF MARIANNE TAMBOUR.

About The Author:
EbsworthDavid Ebsworth is the pen name of writer, Dave McCall, a former negotiator and Regional Secretary for Britain’s Transport & General Workers’ Union. He was born in Liverpool (UK) but has lived for the past thirty years in Wrexham, North Wales, with his wife, Ann.  Since their retirement in 2008, the couple have spent about six months of each year in southern Spain. Dave began to write seriously in the following year, 2009, and The Last Campaign of Marianne Tambour is his fourth novel.

Visit his website. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter

The author is generously giving away 5 copies of the book.  Winners will be able to choose print or kindle versions.  The giveaway is open internationally.  Please click on this Entry-Form to participate in the giveaway.

Click on the France Book Tour banner below to see the full list of blogs participating in the tour!




Filed under France, Historical Fiction

Review: In These Times – Living in Britain Through Napoleon’s Wars, 1793-1815 by Jenny Uglow

I received an advanced review copy of this book from the publisher.

My Review:
In These TimesUglow’s book is a comprehensive social history of Britain during the period of the Napoleonic Wars.  She makes extensive use of letters, journals and diaries from different social strata; we are given a first hand account of life in early 19th century Britian from clergymen, farmers, bankers, soldiers, mill owners and aristocratic women.  The only class from which we do not directly hear are obviously the illiterate poor.  But that is not to say she excludes them entirely; we are given descriptions about workhouses, wandering homeless and bread shortages from the diaries of the middle and upper  classes.

We do learn about the famous players in the wars like Pitt, Nelson, King George III, Wellington and Napoleon himself.  But they are not the focus of this history.  One will not find military battles, biographies of famous generals or copies of treaties in this book.  But the reader will discover how the daily lives and routines of British citizens were affected by this prolonged and costly war.

Uglow’s chapters are organized by themes and topics that occupied British citizens at home while soldiers were elsewhere in the world fighting the French.  At the beginning of the war, fear of invasion is a constant threat.  In order to make themselves feel more secure, local towns formed their own militia and proudly did drill practices in case the enemy ever landed on their shores.  We hear from coopers, bankers, shoemakers, farmers and men from all walks of life who were eagerly getting ready to defend their own borders from the likes of the French.

The themes of many of the chapters are related to money and economics.  Banking, bread prices, the running of mills and the national debt were all affected by the wartime economy.  Thousands of soldiers had to be given uniforms, shoes, and weapons.  The government had to pay for all of these supplies so taxes were constantly being raised.  The farmers felt a great impact from the demand placed on them for supplying food to the army and navy.  Farmer Randall Burroughes reports in his journal that he is dedicating the use of more and more land for planting oats and wheat.

The greatest strength of this book is Uglow’s extensive use of diaries, letters and journal entries that are woven throughout her narrative.  William Harness, who is serving in the British navy, writes longingly to his wife and children whom he is away from for extended periods of time.  He laments missing his children growing up and sharing in their childhood milestones.  Bessy, his wife, writes him back tenderly with news of home and their blossoming brood of children.

Randall Burroughes, a tough but fair old farmer, keeps a detailed journal which catalogs weather patterns, crop rotations, farm workers, and soil conditions.  He is the perfect example to remind the reader that, despite the fact that a global war is raging against the French, ordinary people are still farming their land, attending balls, gossiping and going to church.

In the Autumn of 1813, Uglow describes Napoleon’s defeat through the diary of John Oakes: “two Great Battles…at which The French and her Allies were totallyl routed, 30,000 taken Prisoner and 35,000 Killed & Sick taken. Bonaparte made his Escape wh. a party of Cavalry to Erfurt.”  Political and military events are recorded in the diaries of British citizens alongside weather reports, births, deaths and other family news.

This book also gave me a better appreciation for some of my favorite books that are set in the 19th century.  The chapter on “British Tars” chronicles in great detail the fear of the press gangs as they lurked around the British seaside looking for able bodied men to kidnap and force into naval service.  This reminded me of the vivid scenes in Gaskell’s Silvia’s Lovers in which one of characters is taken off by a press gang and not heard from again for years.  The discussions of the superior British navy and the opportunity for men to advance and get rich from prize money reminded me of Captain Wentworth in Austen’s Persuasion.  In the chapters about the brief pause in the war, the Peace of Amiens, Uglow describes the extended travel vacations that were enjoyed by the aristocracy; in the summertime a favorite destination was the Lakes region of Britain which, of course, reminds us of Lizzie’s journey with her aunt and uncle through this part of the country and her accidental meeting with Darcy.

Some of the transitions between topics in different chapters were rather abrupt.  A few times I became very interested in a particular story and the author would abruptly move on to another topic.  For example, the chapter “Going to the Show,” which describes the elaborate celebrations for the Jubilee of King George III and the types of theatrical events staged during the war, ends with an odd and out of place description of Napoleon’s separation from Josephine.

Overall, this is a comprehensive tome that will be appreciated by a wide variety of readers.  Those who take pleasure in British history, and social history in particular, will revel in the extensive use of primary source letters and journals.  Those who are fans of Austen, Burney and Gaskell will enjoy learning more about the time period in which their favorite books are set.  And finally, those who enjoy a well-written, thoroughly researched and interesting history will not want to miss reading IN THESE TIMES.

About The Author:
UglowJennifer Sheila Uglow OBE (née Crowther, born 1947) is a British biographer, critic and publisher. The editorial director of Chatto & Windus, she has written critically acclaimed biographies of Elizabeth Gaskell, William Hogarth, Thomas Bewick and the Lunar Society, among others, and has also compiled a women’s biographical dictionary.





Filed under History, Nonfiction