Adventure A la carte: Destinations unlimited.

AuthorSkinner, Peter
PositionBook review

Work Title: Adventure A la carte: Destinations unlimited

Work Author(s): Peter Skinner


Byline: Peter Skinner

Alexandre Dumas, le grand romancier, has done it again! The discovery and publication of the hitherto unknown blockbuster The Last Cavalier: Being the Adventures of Count Sainte-Hermine in the Age of Napoleon (Pegasus Books, 752 pages, hardcover $32.00, 978-1-933684-31-6) offers swashbuckling excitement served hot, spiced, and con brio. Every story-telling skill the master's prodigious imagination developed in his previous 300-plus works is in full bloom; brilliant detail illuminates his grand tapestry.

Dumas pits Hector de Sainte-Hermine, a young Royalist bent on restoring Louis XVI's dynasty, against Napoleon, who in 1800 is governing a France of monarchist plots. History bursts into life; we experience Napoleon's cool intelligence, Talleyrand's elegant evasions, Josephine's intuitions and Fouche's brilliant, cold-blooded police-work as the heroic Cadoudal looses his Chouans against the Republic. We live the assassination plots, interrogations, summary justice and the duc d'Enghien's murder, to say nothing of the thwarted invasion of Britain, the winning of Europe and a new world in the making---and Hector's capture.

After three years Hector is released from jail to become Rene, a humble seaman in Napoleon's service. He joins the inimitable corsair Surcouf to ravage British ships. In a flash we are in Mauritius of Bernardin de Saint-Pierre's Paul et Virginie before embarking for Burma (with a hint of Trelawney's Adventures of a Younger Son). There, Rene hunts tigers while his forbidden love---a niece---sighs her way to a tragic demise... In order to topple the pro-British Ferdinand of Naples (where Dumas himself adventured with Garibaldi), our author sweeps Rene (fresh from Trafalgar) off to Calabria. Hair-raising adventures, blood-lust, betrayal and murder abound: the road to Monteleone and beyond is a rendez-vous with danger.

Thanks are due to Claude Schopp for his Introduction to the epic he discovered, to Lauren Yoder for his splendid translation of it, and to Pegasus Books for a truly handsome book. In May Pegasus issues The Whites and the Blues and The Companions of Jehu to complete Dumas' grand Napoleonic trilogy.

Adventure also fuels Dr. Livingstone, I Presume: Missionaries, Journalists, Explorers, and Empire (Harvard University Press, 246 pages, 23 b&w illustrations, hardcover, $22.95, 978-0-674-02487-8), in which...

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