Waterloo

by Bernard Cornwell

When it comes to reviewing Bernard Cornwell's Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies, And Three Battles, it's hard to improve on the assessment of the Wall Street Journal: "With historical accounts like this, who needs novels for excitement."

Well said!

Cornwell, 74 and the author of some fifty novels, was born in London, but lives and writes from the States. Denied a Green Card in 1980, he began writing novels to generate income. Interestingly, Waterloo: The History is his first (and perhaps only) non-fiction book. 

There is so much to love about this book. Here are five reasons to read it:

1. For it's leadership lessons. Cornwell's pages reveal leadership lesson after leadership lesson through the lives of Napoleon, the Duke of Windsor, Marshal Blücher, and others. 
2. For the history. Duh! But if you, like me, only knew Napoleon, Waterloo, and the Duke of Windsor, as characters of a dusty history, Cornwell is going to paint them in vivid colors. He will make you feel you are standing on Mont St Jean watching the battle unfold.
3. For the pictures. Yes, I know that sounds childish, but the accompanying photographs and maps are spectacular.
4. For the power of historical prose. So this is what great historical writing looks like. Take the time, Cornwell's words dance across the page. They will tickle you into laughter, make you pause with wonder, describe better than a mirror, and inform you as if you were there.
5. For understanding 19th century warfare. This is war regaled in glory and stripped of it. The Duke of Wellington said, "Next to a battle lost, the greatest misery is a battle gained." Read this book and you will understand why "the conqueror of the world's conqueror" uttered those melancholy words.