Scurr has ingeniously somehow found an entirely new prism through which to view Napoleon ... Dr Scurr takes the opportunity to discourse on numerous aspects of Napoleon and the natural world, and has ultimately produced a somewhat eccentric but immensely satisfying and captivating book ... 'There is always something new to say,' Scurr says of Napoleon, 'no matter how many regiments of biographers have marched across the same ground.' With this charming and intelligent book about a hitherto entirely unexamined aspect of the Bonapartist epic, she persuades us of this comforting truth.
... beautiful ... a book so saturated with detail that the reader can hear the gravel crunching under her characters’ feet ... The mountain of biographies written about the 'Little Corporal' must, at this point, be higher than the Alps he famously crossed in 1800, but her horticultural angle allows Ms. Scurr to tell the endlessly fascinating story of his life anew ... the author successfully complicates our image of the man Tolstoy dubbed an 'executioner of peoples'.
An elegant prose stylist, Scurr is above all a fabulous historian, and a vivid storyteller with a novelist’s eye for engaging detail. With the exception of the Battle of Waterloo—the most significant fighting of which took place over a garden at Hougoumont—the wars in this book occur largely offstage. Napoleon emerges not in his warrior guise but in his full humanity ... History’s palimpsest emerges in these pages too, through Scurr’s accounts of modern-day places shaped by Napoleon’s vision: while his empire is the stuff of history books, his legacy as a landscape genius endures.