Book: Sharpe's Escape by Bernard Cornwell

Fun historical fiction

Bernard Cornwell
Sharpe's Escape: Richard Sharpe and the Bussaco Campaign, 1810
HarperCollins, 2004
ISBN: 0-06-053047-2
357 pages

Patrick O'Brian's historical novels about the British Navy during the Napoleonic Wars are terrific fun. And George MacDonald Fraser's historical novels about Harry Flashman in the British army a bit later in the nineteenth century are hilarious and terrific fun. But, alas, we won't get any more of those novels since Mr O'Brian died in 2000 and Mr Fraser died earlier this year. To judge from Sharpe's Escape, Bernard Cornwell's novels about Richard Sharpe in the British army during the Napoleonic Wars aren't quite as much fun, but are still quite good.

This book is the 10th the series, which currently stands at 22 books. In the book, Sharpe is the captain of the Light Company of the South Essex regiment. As the book begins, Sharpe's regiment and various others under General Wellington's command are waiting for the French to attack up a steep hill at Bussaco in Portugal.

Messrs Fraser and O'Brian have set an exceedingly high standard for military historical fiction of about this era and it's not surprising that Richard Sharpe (a former London guttersnipe and brawler) isn't quite as memorable a character as Aubrey and Maturin or Harry Flashman. Still, he has his moments:

    "I doubt I called him illegitimate, sir," he said. "I wouldn't
    use that sort of word. I probably called him a bastard."
    (p. 136)

The story is interesting and well told and the battle scenes are stirring. In almost any other genre I'd recommend Sharpe's Escape quite highly. As it stands, if you've run out of Flashman books and have run out of or, perhaps, feel like taking a break from Aubrey-Maturin novels, you could do a lot worse than to read Sharpe's Escape.

Posted: Fri - November 7, 2008 at 05:01 PM   Main   Category: