GRACIE AND THE EMPEROR
Author: Errol Broome
‘Napoleon’s coming,’ said the man.
‘Freddie, I’ve told you.’
‘The scary one! Why do I have to see him?’
‘Because everyone wants to see him – just to look at the man who almost ruled the world.’
‘So why’s he here?’
‘Because, Freddy, in the end he lost. The English beat him.’
‘But he’s here! Why’s he here?’
Gracie also wants to know. This monster-man has cost her her job and her home. So she heads away from the St. Helena town turned over by him, and slowly begins to discover what makes monsters men – and men monsters.
One word: beautiful.
Two words: heartwarming, thoughtful
Three words: a brilliant book
Bunch of paragraphs:
It isn’t your deepest, longest historical fic ever. It is worth a look if you see it lying around. It’s got all the standard dramatic elements: broken family, missing parent, misfit girl, young girl slaving for every cent, friendship, care, forgiveness, Napoleon, slight trauma, etc., but it doesn’t seem as forced, dry and holey as most books that try to stuff themselves full of these do (not necessarily specifically Napoleon). They aren’t the focus of the story but just add to it, form it, herd it in one direction. Know what I mean? I forgive you if you don’t.
Every enemy here is human. By that I mean: has a life. Emotions. Cares. Reasons. But this isn’t one of those stories that go, ‘ooh, well, he might have personally taken pleasure in gruesomely ending of hundreds of lives, but that doesn’t matter because once when he was five someone called him short.’ Those ones are unpleasant. This time, it’s forgiveness and repentance instead of denial.
I found it a bit hard to keep track of dates and ages through the book – although we do get a whole page dedicated to warning us what year it is – possibly because it’s quite short and I rush past those blank pages with only four figures on them (eg. 1815). This is not an uncommon struggle for me, though. The book covers Gracie’s life from October 1815 (she’s eleven) to 1821, with a sort of short epilogue nineteen years after that.
There are a few parts of the story explained only in letters and two-sentence notes written by the main character, but that is definitely not the main way of telling. I get really irritated by books consisting only of letters, but this time they smoothly become part of the story telling – and anyway, it only happens about five times.
I have to tell the truth, so I have to say that this isn’t your funniest book. Thankfully, it doesn’t try to be and so the lack of gut-wrenching humour isn’t missed. I think we can all live with the occasional book where the focus is on getting the story across instead of making your cheeks ache, and if you disagree you’ll just have to deal with it.
It also isn’t very long. Somehow, I think that adds to the charm. Just a relaxing drizzly afternoon read. Although it is short in words, it is not fast-paced. You also don’t get tired of reading.
Gracie and the Emperor isn’t an entirely sunny, happy book. Actually, it is almost entirely not. More like the refreshing, blue happiness of a summer thunderstorm (in my climate – no idea what that would be translated to any other place’s weather) (I got too metaphorical there, didn’t I?). It has a slightly sad note and some sad occurrences, but, overall, it has happifying* mood.
You might want to ignore that last paragraph. Whatever I meant to say up there, it will probably give you the wrong idea.
This isn’t the sort of book I will start screaming about and send you on a desperate hunt to buy it without a care of the cost, but if you can get hold of it easily, I recommend doing so.
One of my favourites, but in the top ten rather than five.
* actually a word
What do you think of Gracie and the Emperor (if you’ve read it)? Rate/comment on it in the, um, comments.