Flashman Review
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I have a new, absolute favourite hero of fiction, and his name is Harry Flashman. As any of you who have read my Ready to Rawk column already know, I’m a huge believer in the attitude of rock and roll, and Flashman embodies this, heart and lily-livered soul. He’s a scoundrel, a womanizer, a shameless coward, and braggart with the luck of the Irish and the sexual appetite of a god—and he’s the best damn thing to happen to fiction since Ian Fleming invented a certain martini-drinking, double-0 spy

Fraser fronts the Flashman novels (there are twelve in the series thus far) with a fun premise: that the Flashman tales aren’t coming from the author’s mind; they’re memoirs that were discovered in oiled leather pouches in the sixties. This fun farce allows the author to play with historical fact while immersing Flashman in these famous clashes and incidents—all the while writing as though it were an elderly Flashman merely penning his own memoirs.

  
 
The first book in the series, simply titled Flashman, sees our hero’s first foray into the British military in the 1840s. After being kicked out of school for drunken misbehaviour, Harry returns home to his wealthy father’s estate. He informs his father of his intention to join the military (not out of any desire to fight, but because there’s presently no war—and his uncle can secure him a cozy position on the officers’ staff). After having a go with his father’s mistress, Harry sets out for the army and becomes part of Lord Cardigan’s regiment Lord Haw-Haw, as the book so lovingly describes the real character of history, who actually led the charge of the light brigade—details of the charge and Flashman’s involvement in it are found in the fourth book, Flashman at the Charge).

Shortly after, he’s sent to Scotland—and, through a series of events, ends up being forced to marry a Scottish factory owner’s simple-minded daughter. Out of concern for any regimental embarrassment brought about by Harry’s marrying beneath himself, Lord Cardigan sends Harry to India, where he eventually triumphs as an unwilling hero of the first Afghan war (absolutely through no bravery of his own—in fact by accidental cowardice, mostly).

The book achieves an impressive duality. It’s frequently laugh-out-loud funny, but, at the same time, the writing is so good and the historical facts are so accurate that it has a fair amount of literary significance, too. Fraser is both a master narrator and a competent historian.

If you’re female, I highly doubt you’ll enjoy this book. If you’re male, I guarantee you’ll love it. The series is sort of like Harlequin romances for men. It’s all sex with big-breasted women, lying and cheating to get ahead, war, explosions, drinking, and looking out for number one. If you’ve ever liked Indiana Jones, Johnny Quest, the Hardy Boys, James Bond, or any other larger-than-life hero, then Flashman is definitely for you.

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