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Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East Paperback – May 27, 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
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."
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.
Sounds familiar? It should About 10 pages into the book you get this sense that the same description, the same arguments, the same approach was used by Team Bush. Yet, clearly, such a comparison was not Prof. Cole's purpose or intent.
I had little interest in reading about Napoleon's Little Egyptian invasion. In fact, what little I knew about it bored me. Then, I read this book. It is an eye opener. It is a serious, informative, and enjoyable read, while never lecturing or sounding like a college text.
Cole has a nice touch, and treats every subject he writes on with respect and a scholar's vision. This book is no different.
Whether you are interested in current affairs, and the IraqNam fiasco, or whether you love history, or even if you simply want a good read, I strongly recommend this book.