Synopses & Reviews
In Seize the Fire
, Adam Nicolson, author of the widely acclaimed God's Secretaries
, takes the great naval battle of Trafalgar, fought between the British and Franco-Spanish fleets in October 1805, and uses it to examine our idea of heroism and the heroic. Is violence a necessary aspect of the hero? And daring? Why did the cult of the hero flower in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in a way it hadn't for two hundred years? Was the figure of Nelson—intemperate, charming, theatrical, anxious, impetuous, considerate, indifferent to death and danger, inspirational to those around him, and, above all, fixed on attack and victory—an aberration in Enlightenment England? Or was the greatest of all English military heroes simply the product of his time, "the conjurer of violence" that England, at some level, deeply needed?
It is a story rich with modern resonance. This was a battle fought for the control of a global commercial empire. It was won by the emerging British world power, which was widely condemned on the continent of Europe as "the arrogant usurper of the freedom of the seas." Seize the Fire not only vividly describes the brutal realities of battle but enters the hearts and minds of the men who were there; it is a portrait of a moment, a close and passionately engaged depiction of a frame of mind at a turning point in world history.
"Not widely known as a naval historian, Nicholson (God's Secretaries) is a highly proficient and readable one. This intelligent and intriguing study of Nelson's naval leadership, though, is definitely for the advanced student of that era, requiring some knowledge of not only the larger culture of Great Britain (as leadership opened to nonaristocrats like Nelson) but also the peculiar culture of the British navy. The latter, the author argues, arose partly from the continuity of leadership, partly from the community of seafarers and partly from the figure of Nelson (1758 1805) himself. Nicholson ranks Nelson very highly among military leaders, with a combination of technical skill, charisma and warmth in his treatment of subordinates that gave him an exceptional hold over his fleet and made him the British image of the hero for more than a century after Trafalgar. This book ranks higher as a study of cultural concepts than it does as one of events, with the personalities lying somewhere in the middle. Students of maritime history, however, will enjoy all aspects of it as Trafalgar's October 21 bicentennial approaches. 6-city author tour." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Adam Nicolson is the author of Seamanship, Sea Room, and the bestselling New York Times Notable Book God's Secretaries. He is a winner of the Somerset Maugham and William Heinemann Prizes, and he lives with his family at Sissinghurst Castle.