Book Report: Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser (1969)

All the cool kids, and by that I mean Kim du Toit (PBUH), love the Flashman novels. So when I lit upon one for a couple bits at a book fair, I bit. You know if you’ve been reading here any length of time (and don’t skip the book reports) that I’ve been reading historical novels, particularly the Sharpe series, so I have to draw a quick contrast between the two. Unfortunately, this book and probably series might fall short.

In this book, a ne’er-do-well aristocratic prodigal son gets thrown out of school (apparently, the books take off of a bully and boor from another British series of schoolboy books), gets his colors, and ends up getting sent to India and Afghanistan as an officer. He gets reknown and reputation for surviving massacres simply because he runs away, lies, and does disreputable things. I kept hoping for some sort of redemptive moment, but at the ending of the book, he finds his wife has been cheating on him while he was away and accepts it because her family has become his family’s meal ticket.

I guess the books were written at different times, which might explain the differences. Fraser’s book came at a time when it was radical to puncture the sense of pride Britain had in its empire; Sharpe’s books, where Sharpe starts out sort of a Flashman sort but with comraderie, kinship, and some patriotism, actually prop up the traditional notions instead of knock them down. Hence, I enjoy the Sharpe books better for the thematic treatment.

I didn’t enjoy this book, ultimately, and I’m not going looking for another in the series. To say I won’t read one, though, might be going a bit far. Perhaps I’m optimistic enough to hope for some redemption somewhere.

Books mentioned in this review: