Monday, August 29, 2016

Flashman by George McDonald Fraser

A long time ago, I owned a copy of Flashman, and of one of the sequels by Fraser, Royal Flash, which I am sure I must have loaned out to someone and was never returned - a fairly common fate for some of my favorites over the years -  and when I saw that the local library system has an extensive collection of the series, I decided it was time to re-read the ones I've seen before and enjoy the rest for the first time.

There was literary device often used in pulp fiction (and perhaps earlier) where the author would purport to have found a package of letters or memoirs, left in a secret hiding place, or in a dusty old crate at auction, or some equally odd place, which he had merely translated, re-telling a true story. Such is the case with The Flashman Papers, a collection of historical novels about a fictional rogue who lived through the late nineteenth century, and got caught up in most of its battles, usually landing in a pile of ordure, yet coming out smelling of roses, Harry Flashman.

When the tale begans, Flashman is kicked out his boarding school for drunkenness, and returns home to visit his father. His father secures him a place in a cavalry regiment, and in return Harry sleeps with his father's mistress - a portent of things to come. He is doing quite well ingratiating himself with the commander of the regiment when his affair with the French mistress of another officer lands him in a duel. While he survives the duel, he is caught by the political repercussions and sent off to exile in Scottland, where he seduces the daughter of the merchant with whom he is quartered, and ends up in a "shotgun" wedding. Shortly after that, his braggadocio at a party ends with him sent off to India as the aide-de-camp to a British general.

It's one of those out of the frying pan types of stories that I've always enjoyed, and Fraser makes it quite a compelling read, with an antihero you just love to hate.

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