Trafalgar by Nicholas Best - a review

Book details :


HIS027200 HISTORY/ Military/ Napoleonic Wars
Pub date   : 13 December 2018
ISBN        : 9781786080691
Ebook       : £3.99
Paperback : £11.99
410 pages
Territory   : World English 
Translation rights : Andrew Lownie

Book Description :


A BRILLIANT, PAGE-TURNING ACCOUNT OF THE MOST FAMOUS SEA FIGHT IN HISTORY.

Beginning with a vivid recreation of Napoleon's army assembling at Boulogne for the invasion of England, Nicholas Best tells how the French fleet joined with their Spanish allies and set out for a decisive battle with the Royal Navy. 
Following events through the eyes of eyewitnesses on the gun deck as well as the admiral's cabins, he takes us to the Mediterranean and the West Indies and back to the coast of Spain as the rival fleets manoeuvre for advantage. Then follows his gripping minute-by-minute account of the actual battle : a truly murderous affair as the rival fleets trade cannon shots at point-blank range.

My review 

Trafalgar by Nicholas Best is best described by its subtitle, 'the untold story of the greatest sea battle in history'. It is a blow by blow account of the events leading up to the monumental Battle of Trafalgar, the battle itself and the immediate aftermath, laid out in the form of a thriller, replete with eyewitness accounts. This brilliantly written historical narrative contains great visual detail so that you can almost see the events unfold, feel the ocean spray, smell the stench of blood and rot and gunpowder. Then there are those giants of that bygone era, General Napoleon Bonaparte and Admiral Horatio Nelson, both of whose larger than life personas only get larger with each retelling.

For the longest time, Admiral Nelson was just a name I read in history books, the guy who stood on top of a column in Trafalgar square, to spot whose visage I had to crane my neck and squint until I went cross eyed. I was slightly better acquainted with Bonaparte, having studied his conquests in a little more detail, but that was wholly due to the high school history curriculum and was not really my doing. So all in all that was an era in history I wasn't too familiar with and was quite excited to read about. I am extremely happy to note that I wasn't disappointed. It is an unfortunate occasional habit of historians, making text trite and a little pedantic, which inevitably causes my attention to wander. Mr. Best has very successfully sidestepped that particular problem. The events are described to perfection without going over the top with details but at the same time conveying the emotional intricacies very well. The language is simple, seamless and gripping, with everything correlated wonderfully. The author has succeeded in making history fun to read for laymen such as myself. My verdict for this book is, informative, fascinating and well worth a read !


** Apart from the content and the way the book is written I have two comments. The first is about the hypocritical nature of the British system of the time : a recurrent theme or rather a chant throughout is that the British will not surrender their freedom lightly, that it is their most valuable asset; this at a time when they where strongly curtailing the freedom of millions of people all over the world, in Africa, in India etc. The second is more a sense of overwhelming wonder at the bravery and tenacity of the people of that time, a time without the technology and facilities that we enjoy now, to be at sea without satellite phones or internet, to not be able to know anything happening anywhere until months or years have passed ... it certainly was a simpler time. **

A free e-book version of this book was provided to me by Thistle Publishing UK in exchange for  a review. The opinions expressed are my own.

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