One day when Betsy Balcombe was thirteen, her accustomed life changed forever. That was the day she learned that the Great Ogre of Europe, England’s enemy, Napoleon himself, would be residing on their island, St. Helena, forever. And in the immediate future he would be residing in their summer house while his house was being built. Thus began the friendship between Betsy and the Emperor. Betsy was a headstrong girl, not one to be in awe of anyone and they developed a playful, childlike relationship that showed a side of Napoleon rarely seen.
Keneally’s discovery of Betsy’s journal in an Australian museum led him to use history to tell an imaginary tale based on an ordinary British family’s encounter with Napoleon. As is usual with Keneally, it’s a lively, enjoyable story with strong characters, beautiful descriptions of the island, a feeling of being there. The story is told in Betsy’s voice, and is done very well. Just don’t count on historical accuracy.
eGalley review Publication date 10.4.16