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The Monsters of St. Helena

Author: Hansen, Brooks Set In . . .
 Oceans and Seas, Atlantic Ocean, St. Helena
Genre: Historical Novel
Time Frame: 1800s
Published: 2003
A notorious episode in Napoleon's career, brilliantly illuminated in fiction

Brooks Hansen's new novel is the story of Napoleon Bonaparte's last exile, in 1815, on the island of St. Helena in the Atlantic, "the place on earth farthest from any other place." The island is populated by English expatriates and the descendants of Portuguese settlers and their slaves--and by the spirit of the island's first native, the sixteenth-century nobleman Fernando Lopez, who haunts them all, and the novel, in strange and captivating ways.

Bonaparte's arrival--with a retinue of fifteen hundred people--throws the island population into turmoil and particularly alarms the slaves, who see "Bony" as a white demon. After settling in a tea-house in a patch of briars and fruit trees, where he will write his memoirs and await his inevitable end, Napoleon is befriended by a teenage girl, Betsy Balcombe--the only person who is able to penetrate the imperial facade and get to know the proud, wounded man within.

Naturally gorgeous, splendidly isolated, with its own history, manners, graveyard secrets, and even a vivid folk religion, the island of St. Helena becomes a character in its own right. The Monsters of St. Helena is a novel as unique and delightful as the territory it depicts, and a great achievement for this gifted writer.
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