The Monsters of St. Helena

by

Brooks Hansen

 

 


 

Brooks Hansen's new novel is the story of Napoleon Bonaparte's last exile, in 1815, on the island of St. Helena in the Atlantic, "the place on earth farthest from any other place." The island is populated by English expatriates and the descendants of Portuguese settlers and their slaves--and by the spirit of the island's first native, the sixteenth-century nobleman Fernando Lopez, who haunts them all, and the novel, in strange and captivating ways.

Bonaparte's arrival--with a retinue of fifteen hundred people--throws the island population into turmoil and particularly alarms the slaves, who see "Bony" as a white demon. After settling in a tea-house in a patch of briars and fruit trees, where he will write his memoirs and await his inevitable end, Napoleon is befriended by a teenage girl, Betsy Balcombe--the only person who is able to penetrate the imperial facade and get to know the proud, wounded man within.

Naturally gorgeous, splendidly isolated, with its own history, manners, graveyard secrets, and even a vivid folk religion, the island of St. Helena becomes a character in its own right. The Monsters of St. Helena is a novel as unique and delightful as the territory it depicts, and a great achievement for this gifted writer.

 

 

Praise for The Monster of St. Helena (FSG, 2003)

 

An elegant, elegiac new novel…(a) little gem of a book.

                                                                                    - The Washington Post Book World

 

An innately engaging story…adroit and poignant.

                                                                                    - Los Angeles Times

 

Hansen...uses language exquisitely, maintains a leisurely pace in narration, and incorporates historical figures into a complex and unusually well organized plot....A monstrously engrossing read for fans of historical and literary fiction.

                                                                                     - Booklist

 

Ingenious…written with a …consciously literary grave that has the remarkable power to act as a lens.”

                                                                                    - New York Times Book Review

 

(A) thoroughly winning novel…Witty and original throughout..,.Would that all historical novels wore their costumes so well!

                                                                                    - Library Journal

 

(Hansen’s) emperor is intriguingly, tragically human….Moving seamlessly between stories, dialects, and perspectives, Brooks Hansen build a complex weave of dreams, myths, folk theater, and history….A novel rooted in a wealth of historical detail, yet touched by pure magic.

- The Seattle Times

 

 The Monsters of St. Helena was a 2003 New York Times Notable Book