Uncle Bernac by Arthur Conan Doyle

Well, who knew that Conan Doyle wrote historical novels, not me anyway, but this is one of them. I’ve only tried one other book of his and I can’t even remember what it was. It was one of the very few books which I just had to give up on, I normally plough on regardless, determined to finish a book and hoping that it’ll somehow get better, gnashing my teeth all the way to the bitter end. But Sherlock Holmes and I just didn’t get on, in fact if I had been left in a room with him alone and he started up on me with all his smug stuff, there just might well have been a murder! I know millions of people don’t agree, I’m obviously just odd but I don’t worry about it

Uncle Bernac originally belonged to my Great-Uncle Robert and it’s a 1912 copy. This is the front plate. It has been in our house for years now but I just realised recently that it is by Conan Doyle and that is why I decided to put it on Katrina’s 2011 Reading List.

It’s a story told by Louis de Laval of how when he was a child his French aristocratic parents had fled from the Revolution and ended up living in England. After Louis’ father dies he receives a letter from his Uncle Bernac asking him to return to France. However the words ‘Don’t Come’ have been faintly scribbled on the outside of the envelope, and Louis is in a quandary.

As he has always been a Republican and had a secret admiration for Napoleon he decides to go and try to present himself to the emperor in the hope that he will be able to make himself useful to him. The alternative is to stay on in England and a life of penury.

Getting to France is no easy task and Louis’ adventures begin sooner than he wishes. It’s set in 1803 with Napoleon’s army camped out along the coast of France preparing to invade Sussex and Kent. If you enjoy books set in that time and place then you’ll probably like this one, as I did.