The Emperor's Body

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Overview

Napoleon, twenty years dead, rises like a phoenix over the politics of France and the destinies of three lovers.
Against the historical backdrop of the French expedition in 1840 to retrieve Napoleon's body from Saint Helena, two men and a woman find themselves engulfed in long-dormant and dangerous political passions.
Philippe de Rohan-Chabot, an aristocratic young diplomat, is charged with bringing the body from the island prison where ...

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The Emperor's Body: A Novel

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Overview

Napoleon, twenty years dead, rises like a phoenix over the politics of France and the destinies of three lovers.
Against the historical backdrop of the French expedition in 1840 to retrieve Napoleon's body from Saint Helena, two men and a woman find themselves engulfed in long-dormant and dangerous political passions.
Philippe de Rohan-Chabot, an aristocratic young diplomat, is charged with bringing the body from the island prison where Napoleon died to a glorious tomb at Les Invalides in Paris. Chabot's rival is the aging diplomat and author Henri Beyle, known to posterity as Stendhal. The enigmatic and impulsive Amelia Curial must free herself from the shadow of her mother's scandalous loves and untimely death, and from the life of stale convention that her family urges upon her. The dead emperor is a token in a political game to appease the enemies of the monarchy, but that gamble imperils the king's rule and a new revolution looms. Meanwhile, the interplay of the three central characters traces a delicate pattern of romance, longing, misunderstanding, and the obstacles to the pursuit of happiness.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Napoléon Bonaparte's body, interred for two decades on the island of Saint Helena, has been ordered returned home to France. Ambitious young diplomat Philippe de Rohan-Chabot is promised a promotion once he successfully completes this politically volatile mission. At the same time, he's hopeful of winning the hand of Amelia Curial, an indecisive Parisienne with decidedly modern ideas on marriage and independence. Diplomat and author Beyle, known to us by the pen name Stendahl and a former lover of Amelia's mother, enters the scene when he becomes infatuated with Amelia. As the mission to retrieve the body unfolds, so do Amelia's efforts to situate her future in a society of shifting mores. Brooks (comparative literature, Princeton; Henry James Goes to Paris) presents a meticulously researched and detailed snapshot of a turbulent time in Europe. But Amelia, the most interesting of the characters (except, perhaps, for Napoléon himself), deserves more exposition, especially as the narrative begins and ends with her first-person accounts. VERDICT This book veers between romance and political intrigue, but there is simply not enough here to interest readers in either camp. This work may find a limited audience among Francophiles and fans of historical fiction.—Jenn B. Stidham, Houston Community Coll. Northeast, TX
Michael Dirda
Peter Brooks made his reputation as a literary critic and scholar, but it's obvious that he possesses an enviable gift for elegant and urbane narrative. He reminds me a little of another superb writer who only began to write fiction late in life: Penelope Fitzgerald. I suspect that she admired Stendhal, too.
—The Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393079586
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/7/2011
  • Pages: 268
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Brooks has written extensively about the nineteenth-century novel, French and English. His books include The Melodramatic Imagination: Balzac, Henry James, Melodrama, and the Mode of Excess; Reading for the Plot, Body Work, Psychoanalysis and Storytelling and The Emperor's Body: A Novel. After many years on the faculty at Yale University, he currently teaches at Princeton University.

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