How many books have been written about Waterloo? Leona Francombe, the author of THE SAGE OF WATERLOO estimates over two hundred with her book one more entry into the field. And a very unique entry it is.
The Sage of Waterloo is a rabbit named William. With an anthropomorphic bent which I usually dislike the author gives a unique view (wow that’s stating the obvious) of a battle that is as well known as DDay.
Waterloo is not a subject that I have studied extensively (hello Diane Gaston!) But I think even the well-educated student of the war will find this book fascinating and beautifully written. William hooked me on page 6 “If you just stumble across Hougoument the scene is quite unremarkable….Until you see the three chestnut trees. Two are dead, the third not far behind them. They look like freaks…and then you realize they’re over three hundred years old, and the only remaining witnesses to the fighting and you understand. Place your hand on one – even a dead one, and you will feel a pulse.”
William’s home is the farm that was the scene of the earliest fighting at Waterloo, a battle that claimed close to fifty thousand dead and wounded (counting both sides together) and ended a war that was as all involving as the World Wars that came over 100 years later.
William’s story manages to cover some of the more familiar aspects of Waterloo including the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball, but what fascinated me the most is his recounting of what happened at the once elegant and serene chateau/farm of Hougoument the day before the Waterloo.
“Go there yourself and you will feel it: the knowing wind…and a strange sort of peace that is not peaceful at all. Sometimes, …it’s as if a worn curtain is shifting and through a tear in the fabric you can see something unimaginable for such a sleep backwater.”
Who can resist reading on after that? The New York Times reviewer, Laline Paull, says that “will hinge on whether its premise instinctively charms or alienates.”
Obviously I was charmed.
What is your favorite recounting of the Battle of Waterloo and why has the battle never been made into a movie?