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1 November 2014

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Books can console us in our griefs, distil the wisdom of the ages, help us understand the world around us - and even make us better people. Books can be monuments to high achievement, can call into question our most fundamental assumptions or suggest ways we can transform our lives. But they can also provide distractions, escapism and pleasures as straightforward and comforting as a bar of chocolate.


Here is a 'bar of chocolate' I found in my favourite "bookshop", Vinnies, when I drove into Batemans Bay yesterday. I simply couldn't resist it as it tells the story of a French soldier, explorer and statesman who gave his name to an island which left a transforming mark on my life.

Storms and Dreams: The Life of Louis-Antoine de Bougainville

Louis-Antoine Comte de Bougainville (1729-1811) is best known for his circumnavigation of the globe from 1766 to 1769. Throughout a long and distinguished life however, he participated in many of the turning points of world history: the birth of the United States, the fall of French Canada, the opening of the Pacific, the French Revolution and the Revolutionary Wars, the crowning of Napoleon and the modernisation of France. Bougainville was also a witty and charming courtier, becoming one of Napoleon′s senators.

A true Man of the Enlightenment, he was gifted in navigation, seamanship, soldiering, mathematics, longitude and latitude - many of the arts that made his age one of most productive and creative in modern history. John Dunmore, a distinguished historian and an expert in French Pacific exploration, brings the man and his era to life in this vivid and elegantly written biography.