George Macdonald Fraser
From the Flashman Papers, 1839-72
Book review by Anthony Campbell. Copyright © Anthony Campbell (2005).
This is the first volume in the Flashman series. It begins with the "hero's" expulsion from Rugby for drunkenness (as described in Tom Brown's Schooldays) and follows his adventures, both military and amorous, after he joins the Army. One of the amorous encounters leads to his marriage (under duress, naturally) to Elspeth, whom he regards as the original Dumb Blonde although by the end of the book it appears that she is not as dumb as all that. He comes as near to falling in love with Elspeth as he does with anyone and he always looks forward to returning to her after his dalliances abroad.
Most of the story does take place abroad. After his marriage Flashman has to resign from his regiment because his wife's family is in trade, and he therefore goes to India. Soon after settling in there, however, he is sent to Afghanistan, and the centrepiece of the book describes his experiences in the disastrous retreat from Kabul, in which practically the whole of the British forces were annihilated.
As readers of other excerpts from the Flashman Papers will know, Fraser has pulled off a real triumph in this series. Although it is primarily a narrative of adventure, it also offers a good historical account of the events it deals with; Fraser, in the guise of "editor", includes end notes which comment on Flashman's descriptions and expand or correct them where necessary. Many of the characters encountered by Flashman did actually exist. And, unlike some historical novelists, Fraser writes dialogue that sounds convincing throughout.
22 June 2005
See also my reviews of other books in the Flashman series.
%S From the Flashman Papers, 1839-72
%A Fraser, George MacDonald
%D 1969, 2005
%G ISBN 0-00-651125-2
%P 299 pp
%O paperback edition
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