When I saw Napoleon’s tomb in the heart of Paris, I couldn’t comprehend how this small and controversial man earned such a prominent burial site. I’ve always wondered what occurred after his escape from Elba that began one hundred days of Napoleon attempting to reclaim the French throne and achieve world domination. I picked up Roth’s The Hundred Days, to get the answers, and the lyrical language made this book fun to read. The crisp descriptions of the sun’s reflection, the white of Napoleon’s horse, and the fickle attitudes of the French created the setting for this tumultuous point in history.
The omnipresent narration of the book allowed the author to provide a global view of the political unrest and showcase both the Emperor and the young women who was completely enamored with him, Angelina. The first part of the book focused on Napoleon’s return to the city, and the fanfare and adoration of the public. Through Napoleon’s inner thoughts, he was presented as a walking contradiction, both confident and insecure, unsettled and at ease, adored and hated, and kind and cruel. Then, the author skipped the entire Waterloo debacle to focus on Angelina and her affair with Napoleon that resulted in a son. Their relationship was a bit boring and Angelina was not a strong enough character to carry such a large portion of the story. I would have preferred that the entire book focus on Napoleon, especially since I was dying to read about his fall from grace. In the third section, Napoleon became a lost and wandering man but that seemed disjointed since the reasons why the French no longer supported him were glossed over too quickly.
This book was a little frustrating for me, but did provide some interesting perspectives on Napoleon’s last hurrah.