Saturday, December 10, 2011

Flashman - a wrap up

So now I've read through Flashman, the first book of the Flashman Papers, what are my thoughts on the book as a whole and it's place in the series?

A couple of things need to be cleared up. I should have mentioned that poor old Elphy Bey never made it out of Afghanistan. He was held as a prisoner/hostage and died in captivity before he could be handed back to the British. He was incredibly incompetent and largely responsible for the disaster that followed, but it wasn't a good way to go out. Akbar Khan became a hero amongst the Afghan people briefly for his part in the revolt. He died in 1845, and was believed to have been poisoned by his father Dost Mohammad, who feared his ambitions.

Gul Shah, Narreeman and Ilderim Khan are all fictional creations. Gul Shah was killed by Sergeant Hudson (also fictional) in Flashman and Narreeman ran off, never to be heard from again, although she does live on in Flashman's memory. Ilderim appears again in Flashman and the Great Game.

I've always found it of interest that George MacDonald Fraser chose to focus on the First Anglo-Afghan War as his subject for the first of the books. It was a little known, and not often talked about, defeat for the British forces at the beginning of one of their great ages under Queen Victoria. Given that Flashman was the right age at the right time it made sense, but the empire was big enough that he could have focussed on other more victorious campaigns. As I go through the books defeat is something that I feel Fraser likes to highlight in his narratives. Flashman seems to be the one victorious person in defeat.

The historical notes in the back of Flashman are only just the tip of the iceberg, they get longer and more numerous, and I find them a highlight of the books. They bring larger than life people like Avitabile and Cotton into sharp relief, and prompt me to find out more about them. Those two themselves could have books written just about them that would read every bit as exciting as any of Flashman's adventures.

If you can get past how bad Harry Flashman is, then you should enjoy the books. For what it's worth I think he's at his worst in the first book. He does mellow and doesn't repeat all the mistakes he made in Flashman.

It was a promising star,t and I'm very pleased that readers gave the character a chance and we got 12 rip roaring stories of Harry Flashman, the biggest bounder in history.

I'm aiming to do one book a month, I kind of made that decision after I'd started this and it spilled over 2 months. So join me in January when I'll take you through Royal Flash as Harry cuts a swathe through the bedrooms of the continent and makes a mockery of The Prisoner of Zenda.

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