Monday, March 28, 2011
Review - The Emperor - Cynthia Harrod- Eagles
It is 1795 and Napoleon is just beginning his meteoric rise to power and control over the whole of Europe. More than control he seems to have frightened the whole of Europe into believing that he could just walk in and take over.
It is also leading to a slackening of the morals of the period. We find James and Mary Ann in a loveless marriage - James bitterly angry, frustrated and desperate that he is in this circle of marriage from which he cannot get out, whilst the love of his life Heloise is on the periphery of his life. Mary Ann angry that however much she puts into this marriage she will always be second best for James - not second best but actually third best once her daughter Fanny is born. You get Lucy - James's sister married to her "best friend" almost a brother sister relationship and expecting the marriage to succeed. Lucy has strange ideas about marriage, sex, children - and believes that all of them should be compartmentalized and boxed up neatly, until she falls head over heels in love with Captain Weston and throws caution and society rules to the winds and is very surprised when her husband shows that he does care what people think.
The story follows the family - Mary with her Captain aboard the ship even during battle, giving birth to baby Africa and dying later of child bed fever. The fact that life does go on, the next generation of children being born Hippolyta and Africa, Fanny and surprisingly Henry, Sophie and Flaminia, Rosamund and Roland will take the story on to its next level.
It also emphasizes that in reality however great the tragedy that befalls a family, very few families will die out. Life is a continuous circle and the next story may be even better than this.
I am enjoying my reads of the Morland family - not everyone is a Morland here but they are all linked to this family. I also like the snippets of how people lived, ate, drank and entertained during the time and how difficult it was to be a housewife or rather a mistress of a big house - the responsibilities were heavy and endless.