A diligent historian, Scurr does not ignore the wars and politics that dominated Napoleon’s life, and she concludes with a vivid account of the battle of Waterloo, in which the chateau of Hougoumont, with its ‘high garden walls,’ played a central role . . . A wealth of natural history and a fine Napoleon biography.—Kirkus Reviews
If you read just one biography this year, make it Ruth Scurr’s brilliant and original exploration of Napoleon’s life as an amateur gardener. Everything makes sense once you realize this was a man obsessed with making nature go his way.—Amanda Foreman, bestselling author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire
From Napoleon’s first garden as a schoolboy to his last on Saint Helena, Ruth Scurr takes us on a journey filled with unexpected new vistas on a familiar life. Napoleon: A Life Told in Gardens and Shadows foregrounds his passion for science and love of the natural world. The result is a refreshing, engaging read.
—Victoria Johnson, Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of American Eden
Ruth Scurr’s imaginative take on Napoleon’s life serves up fascinating insights into the man’s behavior and motivations, as well as an illuminating account of those around him. The gardening angle is fresh and perfectly developed; to garden is to control and manipulate, an empire builder does the same.—Penelope Lively
It is hard to find fresh things to say about Napoleon, but Ruth Scurr has managed it. . . . No one interested in Napoleon will fail to discover here something unknown or unexpected.—William Doyle, professor emeritus of history at the University of Bristol and author of The Oxford History of the French Revolution
A pleasure to read. . . . Ruth Scurr’s sharp perception opens new vistas in the extensive landscape of Napoleon’s boundlessly curious mind.—Sue Prideaux, author of I Am Dynamite! A Life of Nietzsche
Ruth Scurr gives us a captivating, original perspective on a man too often simplified as a glorious—or vainglorious—emperor on horseback. Her sparkling book reminds us of Napoleon’s human frailties and, above all, that he was also a man of science fascinated by the order, diversity, and richness of the plant world.—Peter McPhee, author of Liberty or Death: The French Revolution