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Monday, July 18, 2005

Nelson's Daughter by Miranda Hearn

England celebrates the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar this year and commemmorates its greatest hero Lord Nelson. All Nelson asked in return for his wonderful service to his country which saw him defeat Napoleon was that his country take care of the love of his life, Lady Emma Hamilton and his daughter, Horatia. To its eternal shame, his country failed to carry out his wishes although this was partly Emma's fault - the government thought that she had money already because of her spendthrift ways and she also annoyed important people in a position to grant her a pension.

This is an excellent book which tells Nelson's love story from the point of view of his daughter, Horatia. Miranda Hearn paints a vivid picture of Emma's love affair with Lord Nelson and her miserable decline into grief and alcoholism, cared for by the long-suffering Horatia. A richly atmospheric novel, it captures the romance and splendour of Emma's days in the sun so that one can almost see the carriages arriving at the door and the luxuriously laden tables of the dinner tables and balls she was famous for holding. The description of her addiction to drink is almost enough to turn one off drinking at all.

The author tells a reasonably accurate account of Nelson's story and captures the inconsistencies of his character well. Miranda Hearn also doesn't desist from criticising Nelson at times describing his nasty treatment of the Italian rebels and Emma's feelings about it.

The addition of the charming character of the Egyptian maid, Fatima, who befriends Emma and Horatia, adds a charming element to the story.

This novel deservedly won the Orange Prize for Fiction.

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