Wednesday, July 28, 2021

BOOK REVIEW: Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles by Bernard Cornwell

Despite being an avid historical fiction fan, I’ve never read a novel by Bernard Cornwell. Instead, when I decided it was time for me to learn some factual information about the Battle of Waterloo, I turned to Cornwell’s account: Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles.

This is a wonderful explanation of the battle. It provides just enough lead-up to orient the reader, then gives a fascinating description of what took place over those four days (with the caveats that some details are unknowable.) While clearly favoring the Duke of Wellington and the British forces, Cornwell also pays attention to the Prussians under Blucher and, of course, Napoleon and his French armies. We learn about numerous commanders and the roles they played. We also learn about the heroics of common soldiers and the enormity of the tragedy. Although I’d known it was a huge battle with great losses on both sides, I hadn’t really grasped how huge, or how near the allied (British and Prussian) forces came to defeat. Even though the outcome is known, (spoiler alert: Napoleon loses!) the book is gripping.

There is a fair amount of repetitiveness in the writing. In some places, I felt it bogged down the narrative, but then again, in other places I was glad for the reminders as the scenes shifted from one part of the battle to another. I decided the repetitiveness helped for overall clarity. I came away with a much better appreciation for what took place.

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