Saviour of the universe?

9 06 2012

Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser

From the Amazon reviews:

Harry Flashman: the unrepentant bully of Tom Brown’s schooldays, now with a Victoria Cross, has three main talents – horsemanship, facility with foreign languages and fornication. A reluctant military hero, Flashman plays a key part in most of the defining military campaigns of the 19th century, despite trying his utmost to escape them all.

Expelled from Rugby for drunkenness, and none too welcome at home after seducing his father’s mistress, the young Flashman embarks on a military career with Lord Cardigan’s Hussars.

En route to Afghanistan, our hero hones his skills as a soldier, duellist, imposter, coward and amorist (mastering all 97 ways of Hindu love-making during a brief sojourn in Calcutta), before being pressed into reluctant service as a secret agent. His Afghan adventures culminate in a starring role in that great historic disaster, the Retreat from Kabul.

‘Not so much a march as a full-blooded charge, fortified by the usual lashings of salty sex, meticulously choreographed battle scenes and hilariously spineless acts of self preservation by Flashman.’ Sunday Times

‘Not only are the Flashman books extremely funny, but they give meticulous care to authenticity. You can, between the guffaws, learn from them.’ Washington Post

‘A first-rate historical novelist’ Kingsley Amis

I’m afraid I disagree with the Sunday Times, Washington Post and Kingsley Amis.

Mildly diverting at best and then only as an exemplar of what was once regarded as intensely amusing in a similar way to ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ and ‘Please Sir’. Not very PC would be an understatement – casual and routine racism and sexism is the order of the day. Yes a bounder, a cad, a coward, a liar and a cheat. All of these things and more. Flashman is a rogue and far from loveable. Really difficult to find humour in this stuff. It really is about and of a different age.

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