Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Betsy and the Emperor

by Staton Rabin

The problem with a lot of our history lessons is that you learn a lot of names, but you never get introduced to the people. I suppose that's one reason why I enjoy reading biographies. Anyway, this is a kind of biography. Technically, it's historical fiction, but a lot of it is based on source materials.* The book tells the tale of a few years in the life of Betsy Balcombe. During her teens, she was living on the island of St. Helena when the deposed emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled there. Napoleon and Betsy became friends of sorts and years later she wrote a memoir of that time. This isn't that book however. Ms. Rabin admits that she refrained from reading Betsy's work in order that she might craft her own take on Miss Balcombe's character.* Since I haven't read the memoir, either, I can't comment on whether Ms. Rabin made a mistake or not. I do know, however, that Betsy and the Emperor is an enjoyable piece of historical fiction. One of those good books that makes one want to delve into some of the real history behind it. So check this one out first, just in case the real story isn't as entertaining.
LibraryThing link
*If you check the comments, you'll find that Ms. Rabin has provided some more details regarding the extent of her research. Is that cool, or what?

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