Saturday, 28 September 2019

Book Review: Napoleon Symphony by Anthony Burgess (Historical Fiction)

Title: Napoleon Symphony
Author: Anthony Burgess
Publisher:
Serpent's Tail

Publication Date: 2012 (1974)
Format:
Hardback
Genre:
Historical Fiction
Source:
Borrowed from the Library

 


A grand and affectionate tragicomic symphony to Napoleon Bonaparte that teases and reweaves Napoleon’s life into a pattern borrowed—in liberty, equality, and fraternity—from Beethoven’s Third “Eroica” Symphony, in this rich, exciting, bawdy, and funny novel Anthony Burgess has pulled out all the stops for a virtuoso performance that is literary, historical, and musical.


Napoleon Symphony is a book I expected to like more than I did. Not that I hated it, but it simply never gripped me. I enjoyed the novel's structure and appreciated the links to the Eroica symphony. I liked the fact that Burgess didn't feel the need to explain every event in detail (which would have been boring for someone like me who has read a lot about Napoleon). Rather, he concentrated on Napoleon as a character. However, at times I felt the novel was trying to be too clever for its own good. Not all the prose gimmicks worked, and that left me feeling somewhat detached, so I ended up skim-reading instead on sinking deep into the prose. As such, for me, this was three and half stars. It's an intriguing work but not something that would draw me back for rereads.

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