Life in Napoleon's Army
By Captain Elzear Blaze, Frontline Books, €18.65 ISBN: 978-1399019705
This re-edition of a fascinating account of the Napoleonic Wars includes a commentary by Charles James Napier.
Elzéar Blaze was not the only old soldier to write his memoirs but rather than a personal account, this book is a detailed description of life in the French Army in the early 1800s.
Having entered the army as an ordinary foot soldier and worked his way up to captain, he had a comprehensive view of how the army at that period functioned, and his descriptions include life in camps and barracks, on battlefields, and even in the boudoir.
Lieutenant-General Sir Charles James Napier was himself a distinguished British officer, commissioned into the British Army at the age of 12.
His editorial commentary illuminates an already fascinating account, and his respect for the French Army is evident.
The chapters cover the military academy in Fontainebleau, bivouac and marauders, marches, service in Germany, Poland, Spain and France as well as military executions, every topic illuminated and illustrated with anecdotes, personal experiences, reminiscences, and fascinating tales from the front line.
The author is a natural story-teller, and his tales are all the more gripping for being true.
Guerrillas in Spain, coerced French spies inventing intelligence, wives following the drum and coming under fire, it's all there.
A kaleidoscope of different characters tumble off the page, and it's fascinating to discover how wars were fought two hundred years ago.
Historically accurate, this is nevertheless a book that will appeal to anyone who enjoys good stories well told.
A Year at the French Farmhouse
By Gillian Harvey, MITBoldwood, €12.19 ISBN: 978-1804269688
When Lily gets made redundant, she turns to fantasy house hunting while working her way through a bottle of wine late at night, and accidentally buys a farmhouse in France.
Needless to say, her husband isn't amused; in fact he finally confesses that he has no intention of moving to France and tells her to back out of the deal.
But after decades of longing and planning to move across the Channel, Lily digs her heels in.
If Ben won't come with her, she'll move to France alone, which is how she ends up in the Limousin renovating a massive crumbling wreck solo.
A Year at the French Farmhouse is an engaging tale about the process of completely rebuilding a life after the loss of a job, a marriage and practically everything else.
Lily's BFF Emily is a rock, but she has her own problems. Both she and Lilly are likeable characters; resilient, resourceful and energetic.
Lily completely deserves a romantic element in the shape of a Frenchman called Fred, and readers will be rooting for a happy ending, but is Fred really her destiny?
This book is an ideal read on a cold winter afternoon.
Gillian Harvey has lived in the Limousin for 20 years, and her love of the area shows in her writing.
The novel follows her earlier books, The Marvellous Life of Clara Bailey, Perfect on Paper, and Everything is Fine.
A Christmas Carol (bilingual version)
Charles Dickens, UltraLetters, €6.53 ISBN: 978-2930718217
An ideal present for yourself or any other book-lover, this simultaneous translation of Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol will appeal to anyone brushing up either their English or their French.
To an English speaker, there's a particular pleasure in seeing it set out on the page, just how many French words it takes to explain what Dickens says in so few; and right from the beginning with the discussion of whether doornails are more dead than coffin nails, the translation is full of joy.
To a French speaker, this is a great way of brushing up some more advanced vocabulary without having to open a dictionary every two minutes.
Dickens' talent for writing sentences which sound like he's talking directly to the reader is as obvious in French as in English.
The layout – two columns side by side, one language in each – makes it easy to switch from one language to another, and would also make it easy to read aloud; in itself a very festive and peaceful activity.
Just to give you a taste, I bet you didn't know that "Bah! Humbug!" translates as "Bah! Sottise!"