My Ladybird book of The Story of Napoleon had two pages to illustrate 1812. Napoleon sits on a white horse and watches Moscow burn, torched by fleeing Russians. Then the Grande Armée retreats, a column winding into a blurry, white oblivion. ‘With the thermometer seventy degrees below freezing’, read the text, ‘few of those who had crossed the river Niemen into Russia in June ever got back to France.’ But for a few images such as this — and War and Peace — not many English people know what actually happened. I didn’t, until I read this magnificent book. Adam Zamoyski is the first writer in English to have properly researched Russian, Polish and French sources. No review can do justice to the scholarly integrity and human sensitivity of this book, or to the horrors it describes.