Book: Sharpe's Triumph by Bernard Cornwell

Very good historical novel about nineteenth-century British military in India

Bernard Cornwell
Sharpe's Triumph: Richard Sharpe and the Battle of Assaye, September 1803
Perennial, 2000
ISBN: 0-06-095197-4
291 pages

Sharpe's Triumph is the second book in the timeline of Bernard Cornwell's twenty-two-book plus two-short-story historical-fiction series about Richard Sharpe. Sharpe is a soldier in the British army and former London guttersnipe, brawler, and thief. The book is the second in the timeline, but the seventeenth in order of publication.

This is where I need to make an unfortunate comparison. This is the third of Mr Cornwell's Richard Sharpe novels that I've read and they've all been very good. But George MacDonald Fraser wrote a series of historical novels featuring Harry Flashman about the British army in the nineteenth century and Patrick O'Brian wrote a series of historical novels featuring Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin about the British navy in the nineteenth century. Mr O'Brian's novels are brilliant and Mr Fraser's are brilliant and hilarious. In a more ordinary genre, Mr Cornwell's novels would stand out. In this one they are "only" very good. We won't be getting any more novels from either Mr Fraser or Mr O'Brian, alas, and so if you've read them all or are taking a break to make them last longer, you will almost certainly like Mr Cornwell's Richard Sharpe novels.

As the book begins, it has been four years since the events of Sharpe's Tiger and Sergeant Sharpe is still serving in India. He has had mostly easy duty serving under the slightly-dotty engineer Major John Stokes at the armory in Seringapatam. Sharpe goes to lead a detail and that doesn't go well, though that's no fault of his. Then Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswill, Sharpe's nemesis from the earlier book, makes an appearance. But before anything can come of that, Colonel McCandless, whom we also know from Sharpe's Tiger, arrives. He wants Sharpe's help in capturing a deserter from the British army who's now one of the European officers in the army of the Mahrattas. Major-General Sir Arthur Wellesley is leading a seemingly-inadequate British force against that army and McCandless and Sharpe need to be on hand to be sure that the man is captured.

The story that follows is splendid fun and the battle is an impressive one. And this time the "Historical Note" at the end doesn't break the novel's spell.

Posted: Sat - February 21, 2009 at 07:29 PM   Main   Category: