Seize the Fire (Magill's Literary Annual 2006)
Adam Nicolson has taken the occasion of the two hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar to write a brilliant meditation on war, heroism, and violence. Nicolson brings real skill to his appointed task. He is a gifted narrative historian whose previous book was a best-selling account of the creation of the King James Bible. He is also a sailor and has published a splendid account of a voyage in a forty-two-foot ketch along the coasts of Scotland and Ireland. In Seize the Fire, Nicolson writes with both imagination and authority about the most celebrated naval battle of the age of sail.
Trafalgar invites an epic treatment. It was the decisive naval confrontation of the Napoleonic Wars. In one savage afternoon of combat, on October 21, 1805, Lord Horatio Nelson and the remarkable group of captains he termed his “band of brothers” destroyed the Franco-Spanish fleet Napoleon had collected to safeguard his long-planned invasion of Britain. His fleet gone, Napoleon consoled himself by marching his Grande Armée off to victory over the Austrians and Russians at Austerlitz. England had been spared, however, and the British would continue to harass the French emperor until his final defeat at Waterloo in 1815. Fittingly, a veteran of Trafalgar, HMS Bellerophon carried Napoleon off to exile at St. Helena.
The bare fact of victory does not by itself account for Trafalgar’s place in history. It was a smashingly one-sided...
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2006)
The Atlantic Monthly 296, no. 3 (October, 2005): 121-126.
Booklist 101, no. 22 (August 1, 2005): 1985.
Kirkus Reviews 73, no. 11 (June 1, 2005): 627.
The New York Review of Books 52, no. 17 (November 3, 2005): 55-58.
The New York Times Book Review 154 (September 4, 2005): 26.
The Wall Street Journal 246, no. 35 (August 19, 2005): W6.
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