Napoleon's Last Island (Hardcover)

A Novel

By Thomas Keneally

Atria Books, 9781501128424, 432pp.

Publication Date: October 4, 2016

Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (9/5/2017)
Hardcover, Large Print (1/4/2017)
Compact Disc (4/15/2016)
Compact Disc (4/15/2016)
MP3 CD (4/15/2016)

List Price: 30.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.


The bestselling author of Schindler’s List and The Daughters of Mars returns with a remarkable novel about the friendship between a quick-witted young woman and one of history’s most intriguing figures, Napoleon Bonaparte, during the final years of his life in exile on St. Helena—hailed by the New York Times Book Review as “insightful and nimble...consistently fresh and[ing] to mind the giants of 19th century fiction.”

In October 1815, after losing the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon Bonaparte was banished to the island of Saint Helena. There, in one of the most remote places on earth, he lived out the final six years of his life. On this lonely island with no chance of escape, he found an unexpected ally: a spirited British girl named Betsy Balcombe who lived on the island with her family. While Napoleon waited for his own accommodations to be built, the Balcombe family played host to the infamous exile, a decision that would have devastating consequences for them all.

In Napoleon’s Last Island, “master of character development and period detail” (Kirkus Reviews) Thomas Keneally recreates Betsy’s powerful and complex friendship with the man dubbed The Great Ogre, her enmities and alliances with his remaining courtiers, and her dramatic coming-of-age. Bringing a shadowy period of history to life with a brilliant attention to detail, Keneally tells the untold story of one of Europe’s most enigmatic, charismatic, and important figures, and the ordinary British family who dared to forge a connection with him.

About the Author

Thomas Keneally began his writing career in 1964 and has published thirty-three novels since, most recently Crimes of the Father, Napoleon’s Last Island, Shame and the Captives, and the New York Times bestselling The Daughters of Mars. His novels include Schindler’s List, which won the Booker Prize in 1982, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, Gossip from the Forest, and Confederates, all of which were shortlisted for the Booker Prize. He has also written several works of nonfiction, including his boyhood memoir Homebush Boy, The Commonwealth of Thieves, and Searching for Schindler. He is married with two daughters and lives in Sydney, Australia.

Praise For Napoleon's Last Island: A Novel

“Insightful and nimble prose. . . [Keneally’s] writing is consistently fresh and engaging. . . . As in Henry James’s novels about children, the combination of knowledge and ignorance creates a chiaroscuro effect that gives the narrative depth. . . Napoleon’s Last Island is old-fashioned in the best sense. . . call[s] to mind the giants of 19th century fiction . . . . Seamlessly unites fiction and the 'truth,' which means in this case that its armature of fact supports its layers of fictional invention as thought they were weightless.  The delight Keneally took in pulling off this trick shows on every page.”

“Deft, engaging. . . unfailingly great reading. . . . Keneally is our greatest living practitioner of historical fiction. . . [and he] finds such eager drama and pathos in the least likely of settings.  The book is a complex and mesmerizing success.”

“Keneally is one of the finest living English-language writers…and creates an intricate, intense world driven by power plays, culture clashes, secrets and deceptions."

International Praise for Napoleon's Last Island:

“This brilliant reworking of a 19th-century footnote is more than historical fiction, it’s an account of contemporary relevance – typical Keneally, then . . .  Another Keneally trademark is using minor characters to tell a greater story. Through Betsy runs the fault-line between cultures: the British monarchy vs the dubious republican, the global battle writ small. It is her obscurity, her unimportance, which makes her the ideal lens . . . . Writing Napoleon’s Last Island from Betsy’s perspective allows Keneally to entertain readers with his trademark verve and impishness. Few can match him as a storyteller, and this story deserved his attention.”

“One of the most enjoyable, high spirited and technically accomplished works of a long career    . . .  This subtle and festive novel has afforded [an] intimate glimpse of high political drama entwined with domestic play.”

"Keneally…succeeds, with touches of brilliance, in bringing to life characters in more detail than history ever possibly could. For it is not just a story about Betsy, it is also a coming-of-age story, one in which the protagonist gradually becomes aware of the foibles of human nature. Through her we discover an adult world, a world that she constantly grapples to come to terms with."