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Sympathy for characters vies withpurplish prose and blaring symbols in this reimagining of Napoleon's briefresurgence after his first exile.Roth (Joseph Roth: A Life inLetters, 2012, etc.) focuses on the period (actually 111 days) betweenNapoleon's triumphant return to Paris from banishment on Elba and his defeat atWaterloo, imagining a great man moving toward his downfall. In this slimhistorical novel, the author dwells on the Corsican's solitude, ambitions andshifting emotions in two sections, while two others concern a palace laundressnamed Angelina, also Corsican, who is infatuated with the emperor and whoseaunt tells fortunes for the great man. Napoleon has an encounter with thewasherwoman that leads to an almost-tryst, as well as two brushes with her son,a drummer boy in the army. The second of these, on his final battlefield, is,like many of the book's stronger scenes, damp with bathos. Angelina brieflyinterrupts her adoration of the man, "so great that everything in the world washis," to dally with the "world of sabres, spurs, boots and woven braid" in theperson of "the magnificent Sergeant-Major Sosthene," a comic giant and thedrummer boy's dad. She will also find refuge during the Elba days in the bed ofa kind Polish cobbler with a wooden leg. Aside from reviewing his troops,studying his maps and visiting his mom, Napoleon does little until his coachride to Belgium and flight to the Atlantic and his last jailers, the British.Roth dwells at length on his solitude and his consciousness of time runningshort. Ticking clocks and trickling sand in "an hourglass of polished beryl"are less than subtle reminders of "his enemy, Time."Where the classic Radetsky Marchcould woo any reader with its breadth, insight and humor, this novel offers asentimental miniaturist painting soppy little scenes that maybe only a Rothcompletist will appreciate.