The bestselling author of Schindler’s List and The Daughters of Mars returns with a remarkable novel about the friendship between a quick-witted young woman and one of history’s most intriguing figures, Napoleon Bonaparte, during the final years of his life in exile on St. Helena—hailed by the New York TimesBook Review as “insightful and nimble...consistently fresh and engaging...call[ing] to mind the giants of 19th century fiction.”
In October 1815, after losing the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon Bonaparte was banished to the island of Saint Helena. There, in one of the most remote places on earth, he lived out the final six years of his life. On this lonely island with no chance of escape, he found an unexpected ally: a spirited British girl named Betsy Balcombe who lived on the island with her family. While Napoleon waited for his own accommodations to be built, the Balcombe family played host to the infamous exile, a decision that would have devastating consequences for them all.
In Napoleon’s Last Island, “master of character development and period detail” (Kirkus Reviews) Thomas Keneally recreates Betsy’s powerful and complex friendship with the man dubbed The Great Ogre, her enmities and alliances with his remaining courtiers, and her dramatic coming-of-age. Bringing a shadowy period of history to life with a brilliant attention to detail, Keneally tells the untold story of one of Europe’s most enigmatic, charismatic, and important figures, and the ordinary British family who dared to forge a connection with him.
Thomas Keneally began his writing career in 1964 and has published thirty-three novels since, most recently Napoleon’s Last Island, Shame and the Captives, and the New York Times bestselling The Daughters of Mars. His novels include Schindler’s List, which won the Booker Prize in 1982, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, Gossip from the Forest, and Confederates, all of which were shortlisted for the Booker Prize. He has also written several works of nonfiction, including his boyhood memoir Homebush Boy, The Commonwealth of Thieves, and Searching for Schindler. He is married with two daughters and lives in Sydney, Australia.
“Insightful and nimble prose. . . [Keneally’s] writing is consistently fresh and engaging. . . . As in Henry James’s novels about children, the combination of knowledge and ignorance creates a chiaroscuro effect that gives the narrative depth. . . Napoleon’s Last Island is old-fashioned in the best sense. . . call[s] to mind the giants of 19th century fiction . . . . Seamlessly unites fiction and the 'truth,' which means in this case that its armature of fact supports its layers of fictional invention as though they were weightless. The delight Keneally took in pulling off this trick shows on every page.”
– The New York Times Book Review
“Deft, engaging. . . unfailingly great reading. . . . Keneally is our greatest living practitioner of historical fiction. . . [and he] finds such eager drama and pathos in the least likely of settings. The book is a complex and mesmerizing success.”
– Christian Science Monitor
“Keneally is one of the finest living English-language writers…and creates an intricate, intense world driven by power plays, culture clashes, secrets and deceptions."
– The Star Tribune
"Keneally’s book gives readers a persuasive account of [a] precocious teenager’s view of the world’s most infamous man. He makes Betsy an engaging and witty presence, and he charts her destiny into her post–St. Helena existence, where the short general’s long shadow continues to affect her life. Like the late E.L. Doctorow, Keneally adapts his style to suit his subject matter, and here the high formality of 19th-century journal-keeping helps bring alive the bittersweet last days of Napoleon."
– Publishers Weekly
Praise for Shame and the Captives :
"Keneally is especially good at rendering the small psychological adjustments made between people embarking on intimacy."
– New York Times Book Review
“If the legendary Schindler’s List was not enough to showcase Thomas Keneally’s literary mastery, then Shame and the Captives surely will….It is clear from the start how thorough are Keneally’s research and cultural understanding; and he showcases them with brilliant, masterful writing....[A]n example of fine writing that has the power to entice modern readers and those interested in the truthful reflection of the human spirit, no matter the place, culture or generation.”
– The New York Daily News
"Once again, Keneally reaches back to the WWII era to stunningly dramatic effect...explores multiple and multifaceted themes of courage, loyalty, empathy, and cultural dissonance."
“Keneally shares his deeply believable and flawed characters' conflicting perspectives sensitively and with great empathy,expressing the full range of humanity in a few hundred pages. He does an extraordinary job of making all his characters compelling and sympathetic, with fully formed back stories, even those whose perspectives are likely to be the most "foreign" to the reader…. Keneally blends history, romance and wartime intrigue in a remarkable piece of historical fiction with a strong sense of place and time.”