Two books in one. Both tell the life of an ordinary soldier in Bonaparte’s army. And I wouldn’t want to be there! Richard Howard spares no detail in writing about the gruesome and hard lives they led. The first book tells of the raggle-taggle French army and how they won their battle in Italy. And it is all recounted in enough detail for one to almost smell the troops and their horses.
This is especially true in the second book where the appalling condition of the men and the horses as they trudge through the Egyptian desert is described in enough detail for one to imagine being there, feeling the savage heat of the sun, the crippling thirst, the flies not to mention the possibility of battle. What the narrative does not tell us is how a general forced his troops into such inhumane conditions, although the much-abused word “honour” is used.
So these books are for the curious, what was it really like to be one of Napoleon’s soldiers? But if you are squeamish, especially if you love horses, then perhaps you should think twice before reading these books. Having said that, they were engrossing, educative and I admire the way in which Richard Howard managed to make me feel I was there, taking part in the lives of these men.
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