#BookReview: The Emperor’s Friend: Marshal Jean Lannes by Margaret Scott Chrisawn #ASMSG #RRBC

In her acknowledgements, the author of this book, who is known to me, called this book (quote), “nonfiction on an obscure subject”(end of quote). Indeed, I had never heard of Marshal Jean Lannes before this book came to my attention. As a noncommissioned officer (NCO) in the US Army during the 80’s and 90’s (post-Vietnam era, Cold War soldier), there was no need for me to know about this gentleman.

Margaret also had these words to say about her mentor at the Institute on Napoleon and the French Revolution at Florida State University, Dr. Donald D. Horward:

(quote) “I thank him for accepting me, a somewhat elderly and opinionated female, as one of his graduate students. He taught me rigorous research skills, the art of critical analysis, and the ability to see two sides, and sometimes three, of each issue. He also made a valiant effort, generally successful, to eradicate all traces of purple prose from my dissertation. The fact that I put it all back in this book, and then some, is not his fault.” (end of quote)

Before I go further, I know it is important to answer the question Margaret has brought up. What is “purple prose“? Of all the definitions I looked at, I like the way Bob Dole put it. Here is his definition of “purple prose”:

Bob Dole: “I’d say that purple prose is a passage that is so needlessly ornate and wordy that it takes away from the meaning of the passage. We all want our writings to be vivid and sometimes it’s just a little too tempting to describe absolutely everything about a scene, halting action and killing comprehension. The more wordy the passage gets, the harder it is to get the point across.” (Source: Yahoo)

Let’s move on to my review. I obtained a free sample to use for this review from Amazon Kindle. I also used a free sample from Google books. The price of this book puts it outside of my purchase ability. This review is voluntary. I wasn’t asked to write this review by the author. I write on my own personal initiative.

Firstly, other reviewers have indicated that the author is a talented and dedicated researcher, but somewhat lacking in other skills. All of this, however, must take a backseat to her ability to present a historically accurate text in a convincing manner. I draw your attention to that fundamental question here. Is this book convincing? To answer, a qualified military opinion is enlightening.

I turn to the written comments of Major Michael A. Boden, an operations observer/controller at the Combat Maneuver and Training Center at Hohenfels Training Area in Germany. Major Boden is a former assistant professor of history at the US. Military Academy. At the time of writing (2003), he was a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and a Ph.D. candidate in history at Vanderbilt University. He served during the Gulf War in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait with the 1st (Tiger) Brigade, 2d Armored Division, and in Kosovo during 2002 as Executive Officer (XO) of the 1st Battalion, 77th Armor.

Writing in “Army History Magazine,” (the Professional Bulletin of Army History) in the Summer-Fall 2003 issue, he concluded his book review by saying: (quote)”In the final analysis, this is a study of Jean Lannes, French marshal and advance-guard commander extraordinaire. The focus remains throughout on his personality and leadership style and how Lannes applied himself to and executed his duties as a soldier of France. Chrisawn’s research is excellent, her writing crisp, and her conclusions solid. The text is augmented by a better set of maps than most historical works possess, which only adds to the project. This is an excellent book and should serve as the foundation for any secondary research on Jean Lannes for the foreseeable future.” (end of quote)

I concur with this conclusion, based in part on my own military service of over 14 years, which also afforded me several opportunities to participate in military training exercises at Hohenfels, Vilseck and Grafenwoehr, Germany. To conclude, I provide a compelling anecdote (without purple prose) that captured my attention. It is taken from Chapter 7: Revanche on a Grand Scale: Jena 1806.

“”Lannes reached Paris before Christmas…He did not spend much time in Paris in case Napoleon had plans for him. Instead, he went to Lectoure…Lannes refused the invitations that he received, including one from Napoleon… “Tell the emperor I’ll obey him on the battlefield, but not now-I’m on leave,”… Evidently Napoleon…left hm alone.” (end of quote) Makes you want to know more about Marshal Jean Lannes, “The Emperor’s Friend”, doesn’t it? Get this book if it does…

Reviewed by Thomas Jerome Baker
Author of Boudicca: Her Story

About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family.
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