Book Review: The Last Adventure of Napoleon Sunshine by Pascal Ruter

The Last Adventure of Napoleon Sunshine…

About the Book:

Set in Paris, a quirky novel about an inseparable grandfather and grandson who embark on a crazy adventure before life changes for good. For fans of THE KEEPER OF LOST THINGS and THREE THINGS ABOUT ELSIE.

At the age of eighty-five my grandfather Napoleon decided he needed to try something new . . .

Everything starts to go south when Napoleon leaves his wife. An eighty-five-year-old former boxer with a restless, youthful spirit, Napoleon decides to say to hell with it all! He wants a new life. With his ten-year-old grandson Leonard Sunshine, he embarks on a moving adventure, a rebellion against everything that takes the fun out of life. Above all, Leonard is determined to spare his grandfather the fate of the elderly – his final years spent exiled in a retirement home.

The chaotic duo adopt a dog, drive a fake taxi, escape to the seaside, sabotage door-to-door salesmen and plot to kidnap a famous radio star.

From the heart of Paris to the coast of Normandy, THE LAST ADVENTURE OF NAPOLEON SUNSHINE is a moving, life-affirming and melancholy tale of new beginnings and the importance of family.

My Thoughts:

The Last Adventure of Napoleon Sunshine begins as equal parts absurd and delightful, told with a vigour that is wholly French. Napoleon seems determined to act in a manner that is entirely contrary to the expectations of what an elderly man should act like. At the age of 85, he divorces his beloved Josephine – don’t you just love this nod to French history? – and seems determined to live out every day in whatever manner he pleases, ridiculous be damned. His general, grandson Leonard, is happy to go along for the ride, although as an insightful ten year old, he knows that something is behind all of this, something bigger than anything that’s come before, but the knowledge of it is out of his reach.

‘You don’t get divorced at eighty-five, going on eighty-six. You don’t add to your house at that age and you do accept help with renovating and redecorating. In fact, you don’t redecorate at all at that age. You wait. You wait for the end to come.’

This story is funny, at times ridiculous, yet always entertaining. And then reality rears its head and we see, along with Leonard, the real reason behind Napoleon’s late change of life. There is a depth and meaning to this story that caused a lump to form and wedge itself firmly in my throat. It’s heartbreakingly beautiful, the way this story unfolds, and unexpectedly melancholic. It would make an absolutely splendid film, but only if it were made as a French film; anything different would certainly spoil it.

‘Once more he walked away from me. Without a backward glance he rode off into the vast empty plains of old age, his horse’s hooves drumming on the frozen ground.’

The characters within this story just popped right off the page, not just Napoleon, who was certainly larger than life and Leonard, who was an absolute darling. But Josephine as well, with her generous and forgiving nature, along with her sharp humour. Leonard’s parents, particularly his mother, intuitively drawing all that was too big to say, capturing the emotions of everyday in her life sketches. I felt so sorry for Leonard’s father at times, bearing the brunt of Napoleon’s insults, suffering the whims of both of his parents. But he bore it all with grace and the dedication of a loving and patient son. There is so much love in this story, it’s so ultimately uplifting. The Last Adventure of Napoleon Sunshine caught me by surprise, but in the very best of ways.


Thanks is extended to Hachette Australia for providing me with a copy of The Last Adventure of Napoleon Sunshine for review.

About the Author:

Pascal Ruter grew up in the southern suburbs of Paris. He is the author of several books for young readers. The Last Adventure of Napoleon Sunshine is his first work of adult fiction. Ruter loves stories above everything, especially ones where the misfortune and severity of life are matched by the absurdity and humour of everyday situations. He currently lives in a tiny village in the middle of the forest of Fontainebleau.

The Last Adventure of Napoleon Sunshine
Published by Hachette Australia – Little Brown
Released on 6th June 2019

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