Thursday, 29 October 2015

Louise Reviews The Last Campaign of Marianne Tambour: A Novel of Waterloo

Please not that the author is gifting a signed paperback and an ebook for two lucky winners.
See below for details.
The winners will be drawn on Thursday the 5th November

From David Ebsworth's amazon page

On the bloody fields of Waterloo, a battle-weary canteen mistress of Bonaparte's Imperial Guard battalions must fight to free her daughter from all the perils that war will hurl against them - before this last campaign can kill them both.

This book, an immense story of war, and the lives of those who live through it, deserves an accolade for astounding depth of detail, not only in the descriptions of the characters, but also in their actions. A cinematic, full colour, masterpiece. A powerfully packed novel of the history of one of the most iconic battles, that of Waterloo, told from the female perspective. Ebsworth has characters driven by their personalities, and their battle for survival. The personalities, and their struggles are such, that the characters become three dimensional, and the struggles becoming personal to the reader. We have Marianne Tambour, who is a cantiniere; Liberté Dumont, who is a female Dragoon, and informer to the police minister, Joseph Fouché.

I first have to mention the book cover for Marianne Tambour. The detail, the story beckoning, the tale of a well-known war, with the unknown personal lives that lived within that war. This is, indeed, a cover of some note.

I have read that we view a cover in a clockwise fashion. This being the case, then, I shall start with the image of the woman, top right. Is this Marianne Tambour? Then there is the title of the book, slashing the cover in half, written in blue and red, resembling a signature, perhaps; confirming the protagonist, in colours imitating the tricolour above. Below this we have three soldiers, one of whom is most definitely Napoleon. The horses look worn down, mirroring the men mounted upon them, demonstrating the bone-weariness of war. The bodies beneath the horses' hooves, strewn like discarded chaff. Then there is the author's name, supporting the entire scene, in a capitalised font; bold, underlining the image above. We then swing our vision around and back to the top of the cover, and there is the tricolour. Is it being held by Marianne Tambour? Or is it the arm of a soldier? Only reading the story within will inform.

David Ebsworth's story of intrigue within the well-known story subject of the battle of Waterloo, is inspired. It is written as a journal, of sorts, each chapter being pinned to a day, a date, and a time. A countdown, if you will.

Chapter One 
Wednesday 14th June 1815, 2.00pm 
The boning knife flashed from the left, flensed the lower buttons from Marianne's coat in the instant she jumped back, a reflex from the strange gift of premonition - or perhaps it was a curse - that she possessed.

These opening lines, of what is Marianne Tambour's last campaign, are so powerful as to warn the reader of what is to come. Mayhem, death, and a struggle for survival.

When I first started to read Ebsworth's novel, I was hooked immediately by those first opening lines. First of all, they intrigued me. A boning knife, a knife that has a particular function; that of taking flesh from bone. The image is harrowing in its starkness. Its blade is narrow, with a long point, perfect for the task. The knife, 'flensed the lower buttons from Marianne's coat', flense, an interesting verb to use, as this is the particular action of stripping blubber or skin from whales, another very particular function. For me, that would imply the stripping of Marianne's flesh from her bones in a most brutal fashion. Imagine how close that knife came as it took the lower buttons from Marianne's coat. A hair's breadth closer, and Marianne's story would be over. It is detailed description like this; that encompasses the reader, the narrative being absorbed by osmosis, tantalising, and beckoning the reader.

Whether you are on the French side, or the English side, it matters not. Ebsworth's narrative is being told not only from the female perspective, which in itself, is refreshing, but it is also being told from the French point of view. Very often, when reading about Waterloo, we are treated to the English view of the event. For me, it was like snooping behind enemy lines, if you will, overhearing, and being alarmed at the terrible events.

Marianne has a tenacity which helps her to stay alive after her husband's death. She not only has herself to look after, but also her child, Poppy. Here Ebsworth impacts the feeling of survival, a child, after all, is a precious thing, the future of a population. War is a destructor of populations, and so we are ensconced in two battles, the one of Waterloo, and the survival of Marianne, and her child.

There is much brutality in this story of war, if you could, you would look away, but the draw is to watch, to flinch, to be torqued into a curl of anxiety, followed by relief. We are manipulated by Ebsworth's text, he leads, and we follow.

This is from Chapter Eighteen: 
'Fouché tells me you're something of a sword-sharpe,' he said. More lather, she thought. That's good. She slipped her fingers inside the knuckle guard, wrapped them around the wired leather in a tug-of-war over some disputed garment. The Lieutenant's eye was drawn inevitably to them and it was the only chance that Liberté needed. 

This is a most compelling fight scene, told entirely from the female perspective. The sword-fight between Lieutenant Henry and Liberté, is written in such a way that the draught from the swords is palpable, as they sweep past. They were fighting with sabres,

These were hardly duelling blades, after all. There was no subtle slash and parry for a Dragoon, the heavy sabre either wielded straight as a lance, or hacking like a bludgeon. A butcher's clever, she always thought, this backsword, as opposed to the light cavalry sabre's flensing knife.

The sword fight is described cinematically. Detail after detail laid before the reader, jamming the brain with the same rush of adrenaline as the characters must be experiencing. I was left breathless after reading the sabre duel. I know nothing of fencing, per se, other than it is an art. So the description, so rich in its detail, left me in no doubt as to the stamina and the art, needed by the combatants.

If you like to read books about the battle of Waterloo, and you are au fait with the history, then this book is one for you. If you have no notion of the battle, then this book is also one for you. Ebsworth's fine art of creating a world, one which is both believable, and all encompassing, is a unique talent. His use of prose is superlative. Marianne Tambour, is a tour de force.

To win a copy please leave a comment below or on our Facebook page

From David Ebsworth's amazon author page:

David Ebsworth - aka - Dave McCall

David Ebsworth is the pen name of writer, Dave McCall, a former negotiator for Britain's Transport & General Workers' Unioin. Dave was born in Liverpool (UK) but has lived for the past thirty years in Wrexham, North Wales, with his wife, Ann. Since their retirement in 2008, the couple have spent about six months of each year in southern Spain. Dave began to write seriously in the following year, 2009. He has recently published his fourth work of historical fiction. The Last Campaign of Marianne Tamboiur: A Novel of Waterloo. His previous books have been about: the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745; the Spanish Civil War in 1938; and the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. Dave's main passions are his family, history, travel, Spanish food, swimming and sailing. He is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Alliance of Independent Authors.

David Ebsworth is author of many books, which can be found on amazon
You can also find him on Facebook
And on his website

Louise Rule is author of Future Confronted, a biographical account of her family's struggle to come to terms with a much loved son's terminal diagnosis and is currently writing her first historical novel, The Touching of Stones set to the background of the Scottish Wars of Independence. 


  1. Getting shivers down my spine reading this, sounds like a very different perspective to Waterloo. Would love to win a copy of this

  2. Fabulous review, Louise, and so glad you liked the story. It's incredibly gratifying (as you'll already know) when somebody so plainly loves your work. I now feel immensely humbled. And hope you're OK, by the way. Meanwhile, for readers of "The Review" I'm obviously happy to chat about all things Napoleonic so far as I'm able.

    1. Thank you David, how did you stumble upon Marianne? Until I heard of your book, I had no idea about her.

    2. It has been a long time since I have read a book so thoroughly absorbing and as exciting as your book, David.

    3. It has been a long time since I have read a book so thoroughly absorbing and as exciting as your book, David.

  3. Hi Paula. Funnily enough, I first came across her (more or less) 50 years ago!!! She's a fictional character, of course, but based on the feisty real-life cantinières I've just mentioned in this other post...

    1. Did you have fun researching this book? Where did your research take you?

    2. Yes, great fun - as always with the research. And it took me mainly to the sources I've mentioned in the article on the website but lots of other places too. So, for instance, it intrigued me that soldiers of the period usually only carried one spare boot with them, to save weight. Left or right, I wondered. Then realised, like a fool, that left and right shoes didn't exist for 'common folk' until much later, around the 1850s. Army boots therefore simply came in three sizes - small, medium and large, and were exactly the same for both feet.

  4. Sharon Bennett Connolly30 October 2015 at 15:14

    Great review. Definitely have to get this book!

    1. I recently had a dip into your 'King Arthur' posts too, Sharon. Better not to ask my opinion about the "fact or fiction" thing but certainly true that the legends had a life all of their own from the 11th Century onwards and the whole story of troubadour-based King Arthur romance is wonderful! But glad you liked Louise's review!

  5. Sounds fascinating = would love to read it.

    1. Hi Margaret. The story of the cantinières has been waiting to be re-told since Stendhal gave them such a mention in "The Charterhouse of Palma" in 1837. Great shame they've not appeared in fiction since then! Hope you're OK though.

  6. Replies
    1. Hi Emma. It's great, isn't it? I feel very privileged that Louise has taken such care with the review.

  7. Intrigued about this after David's appearance at Harrogate. Looking forward to reading it.

    1. Hello Derek. Like I already said, it was a shame we didn't get to chat at Harrogate. Do you go every year?? We only had time for the Thursday evening/Friday morning this time around but will definitely do the whole weekend in 2016