cover image Napoleon & St. Helena: On the Island of Exile

Napoleon & St. Helena: On the Island of Exile

Johannes Willms, . . Haus, $19.95 (231pp) ISBN 978-1-905791-54-5

“It is a curious fact,” observes Willms, “that Napoleon always came to grief on islands.” He was forced to flee his native Corsica, failed to conquer Britain, was exiled to a miniature empire on Elba and pitifully ended his days banished to a tiny, rocky speck in the South Atlantic. It is on the last—St. Helena, “the world's best-known, little-known island”—that Willms, a German journalist and biographer of Napoleon, concentrates, in this absorbing travelogue and history entry in the Armchair Traveller series. The former emperor complained mightily as to his fate, but eventually settled down to a life of constant surveillance, grinding tedium and thoroughly bad food. His loneliness was relieved only by the British taxpayers' hefty subsidy for a 38-person household—who he insisted wear full dress uniforms and observe courtly rituals—and sometimes the games of blind-man's-bluff he played with his guardians' children. Willms traces the aftermath of the emperor's death and the birth of the Napoleonic legend, as well as continuing the story of St. Helena to the present, in a book that will appeal to “Napoleonogists” and inspire travelers looking for an undiscovered destination. (Sept.)