cover image Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles

Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles

Bernard Cornwell. Harper, $35 (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-231205-1

Best known for his historical novels, Cornwell (The Empty Throne) puts years of research to good use for his first nonfiction work, a new look at the events of Waterloo, which is "one of the most studied and written-about battles in history," yet "like all good stories it bears repetition." He injects a human element into a thorough and entertaining account of the battle's overarching military themes by including anecdotes%E2%80%94some funny, some heartfelt%E2%80%94about the participants. For instance, he recounts the story of the Brunswick Black Legion, who infamously ate the canine unofficial mascot of the Irish 95th Rifles. Cornwell notes that "the battles of 16 June and 18 June 1815 make for a magnificent story," confessing that when he wrote Sharpe's Waterloo his "plot almost entirely vanished to be taken over by the great story of the battle itself." Here, his complex overview switches among the perspectives of Napoleon, the Duke of Wellington, and other influential figures. Cornwell understands the ebb and flow of action, and his passion for the material keeps the narrative from feeling too dry. Waterloo may be a well-mined topic, but this new presentation is bound to satisfy lovers of military history. Maps & illus. Agent: Toby Eady, Toby Eady Associates. (May)