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Customer Review

35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Three quarters of the game..., December 18, 2008
This review is from: Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East (Hardcover)
This book was difficult to rate. Where it was good, it was very good. Where it was bad, it was very bad. So, I compromised at three stars.

At first I almost didn't buy it. The topic was intriguing because I have an interest in the Napoleonic wars. But I looked on the back cover and found five intellectually bankrupt quotes from academic reviewers who were, directly or indirectly, trying to draw parallels between Napoleon's invasion of Egypt and the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Only a politically fevered college sophomore, or an academic desperate to be a star at their next wine and cheese party, could make such an equivalency, moral or otherwise. So, I feared for what might be in the book. I bought it anyway, and was pleasantly surprised by most of it.

Cole does an excellent job of taking you through (part of) Napoleon's Egyptian campaign. Using accounts drawn from contemporary journals, he weaves together numerous tales of adventure and misadventure into an interesting whole. At the same time, he provides genuine insight into the complex clash of two very different cultures. That's the good part.

The bad part comes at the end of the book.

Try to imagine yourself listening to a detailed account of a football game; then, when the commentator gets to the fourth quarter, he says: "Then they ran a bunch of plays and everyone went home." That is basically what Cole does to the reader.

The siege of El Arish, the capture and sack of Jaffa and of Gaza, are handled in THREE SENTENCES! The siege of Acre gets a whole paragraph; but the two-month battle, in which a British Naval officer defeated Napoleon on land (!), is reduced to "[Cezzar Pasha] enjoyed naval backing from the British."

Unbelievable!

And that doesn't even get us to Napoleon's disastrous retreat from Acre (one sentence), the British landing and battle at Abuqir Bay (two sentences), the dramatic deaths of Murad Bey and of General Kleber (one sentence each), and so on.

If three quarters of Napoleon's Egyptian campaign story is all you're interested in, this book is for you. It's excellent. But if you want to hear the fourth quarter of the game as well, you'll need to try another commentator.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 27, 2009 6:40:50 PM PST
P. Scharfe says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on May 25, 2009 4:32:14 PM PDT
M. Reid says:
Patrick,

You seem totally unable to understand analogy. He was making an analogy not between history and football game but the fact that we get a painful blow by blow account of the first half of the campaign and then barely a thumbnail sketch of the rest of it without any good reason.

Posted on Apr 26, 2013 11:05:17 AM PDT
Ixion28 says:
I think Christopher Herold's BONAPARTE IN EGYPT, which was first published more than forty-odd years ago, remains the best general version of this astounding tale.

Posted on Feb 13, 2016 12:49:04 PM PST
Chimonsho says:
Despite some sound insights, it seems that Mr Chamberlain has lowered the rating by 1 star because he disapproves of the jacket copy, & believes that equivalencies to modern history have no merit whatsoever. I call foul.

Such comparisons are perfectly valid, even necessary. They must be done judiciously, & with nuance, but to dismiss these efforts out of hand is insupportable.
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