|The English and the German cover.|
The author starts with an overview over the political situation before 1812. He points out Napoleon's worries as self-made emperor and his efforts prepare a solid state and power structure for his son. All the constraints that forced him to carry the struggle with Great Britain on are pointed out clearly and Zamoyski underlines Napoleon's and France's inner and outer conflicts during those year after the revolution. On the other hand he characterizes Zar Alexander I. as unstable and rather heavily dependent on his staff and household due to the circumstances of his accession to the throne. However Zamoyski points out the way to war during 1809 and 1812 very lively quoting a lot of letters or note from contemporary diplomats.
But real tension grows when Napoleon starts to invade Russia. After Zamoyski's description of the preparation the mindful reader forbodes the adversity which were winding up. But once again the numerous statements of contemporary witnesses pinpoint all the sufferings and the needs of the multi-national Grande Armée. Even during their march towards Moskow and Saint Petersburg they experienced all problems which lack of supply and dirty weather can achieve. The author describes the fate of Napoleon's soldiers clearly and here and then draws the line to the Emperor's decisions which turned out to be partially fatal mistakes.
Although I haven't reached the climax of the book, the retreat of the beaten army, so far, I can deeply recommend it. To me Zamoyski seems to describe the events rather fair-minded and neither Napoleon nor Alexander seem to be judged wrongfully. Nevertheless he points his finger to some characteristic weeknesses and tactically wrong decisions of theirs.
If you are interested in Napoleon's Russia campaign those 700 pages are worth a look. Not for nothing did 1812 lead several best-seller lists during the last years.