A remarkable debut novel, `Four Days in June' is an imaginative but accurate reconstruction of five men - all real figures - five points of view, and four days of one of the world's most famous battles.Four days in June, 1815.
Five men, three armies, on the fields of Waterloo. A battle for honour, glory, civilisation. And two great leaders, Napoleon and Wellington, in direct confrontation for the first time, to take their nations to victory.General De Lancey, Wellington's new Quartermaster-General, recently married and yearning for his beautiful wife.
Colonel MacDonnell, a Scot who must hold his post to the last man.
General Ziethen of the Prussian army, distrustful of the British but vital to their cause.
Marshall Ney, mistrusted by Napoleon but revered by the French soldiers. And Napoleon, who must prove his worth as a great warrior for the glory of France.As the battle develops over the four days, it is seen through the very different positions and characters of the front men.
From the eve of the battle to its bloody conclusion, there is defiance, desperation and great courage on both sides.
Iain Gale, in his first novel, draws the scene, the devastation, the stench of war, with such vitality that, though the outcome is known, the tension of war comes vividly to life.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 288 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication Date: 01/04/2007
- Category: Historical fiction
- ISBN: 9780007201044
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Review by AdonisGuilfoyle
A terse, tense, straightforward account of the Battle of Waterloo (15-18 June, 1815), told from the perspective of five men, including Napoleon himself. Iain Gale is to be commended - even without the sketches of battle plans at the start of each 'day', his approach is clear and personal, drawing the reader into individual and opposing corners of the battlefield. The defence of Hougoumont by McDonnell, who was named 'the bravest man in the British army' by Wellington; De Lancey assisting the Iron Duke himself; Napoleon and Marshal Ney matching the cunning and strategy of the Allied Army; and Ziethen of the Prussian army, who makes the right decision in the nick of time. Their respective chapters jostle for attention throughout, but together form a detailed history of a vicious and gory battle. And the sheer scale of the numbers involved - 50, 000 soldiers dead and wounded - is vividly described and almost inhumanly shocking. Men and horses are blown up, decapitated and disembowelled by cannonballs, run through, dismembered and maimed by bayonets and swords, and the lucky ones are shot dead. Gale pulls no punches with the violent truth of this historical battle.The only quirk of this tale is the occasionally staccato pace of the writing, which is effective in places, and can sound like the clipped voice of a soldier - 'Biddle smiled. Barked the order, emphasizing and pronouning the last syllable. 'Bayonets' - but reads like an aversion to commas ('And then. Unthinkable. She pulled up.') After a while, the pace of the action carries the rhythm along, but the effect is jarring at first.Although I am far from an expert on Waterloo, and Gale acknowledges that this is a novel and not a textbook, the characters are real and the victory of the Allied Army remains a brave and iconic event in history. Thrilling.