Books: The Second Longest Day

AUSTERLITZ by Claude Manceron. 318 pages. Norton. $5.95.

In August 1805, eight months after he had unceremoniously crowned himself Emperor of the French, Napoleon was up to his coronet in complications. His invasion of England, announced 18 months earlier, had bogged down on the beaches near Boulogne. His fleet floundered useless, bottled up by the British at Ferrol. His treasury lay empty, and all across Europe his prestige was ebbing. On Aug. 13, Talleyrand brought word that Austria and Russia were hastening to mount a massive attack on France.

Napoleon made his decision and...

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