Monday 23 January 2012

Book Review#8. - Flashman

How is it that I have waited  so long to get around to reading 'Flashman'?  Like many, I am familiar with the name from his original appearance in 'Tom Brown's Schooldays' written by Thomas Hughes in 1857, but it is his reincarnation in George Macdonald Fraser's 'Flashman Papers' that we really get to know what happened to the bully that was expelled from Rugby School for being 'beastly drunk'.  
I think it is important to acknowledge from the start that the book contains lurid descriptions of violence to women and defamatory language that some will find offensive; but then what do we expect from a man, who in his own words, is  "a scoundrel, a liar, a cheat, a thief, a coward - and, oh yes, a toady."  Fraser takes the backdrop that is Victorian expansion and weaves Flashman's character through it in such a deft way, one could almost believe he was actually there.  This, the opening chapter, sees our anti-hero sent to the most inhospitable station in the Empire - Afghanistan.  True to form, Flashman manages to avoid all sense of duty and honour but still manages to return home, showered in reflective glory.  There really should be nothing to like about the character of Flashman, yet somehow he worms his way into our psyche, forcing us to laugh and cheer, often at the most inappropriate times.   Take for example this description of General Elphinstone, commander of the British garrison at Kabul, 

"Only he could have permitted the First Afghan War and let it develop to such a ruinous defeat. It was not easy: he started with a good army, a secure position, some excellent officers, a disorganised enemy, and repeated opportunities to save the situation. But Elphy, with a touch of true genius, swept aside these obstacles with unerring precision, and out of order wrought complete chaos. We shall not, with luck, look upon his like again."

Now it is entirely possible that I am looking on this novel a little too favourably, given my predilection for the era, but I have to say that I really enjoyed this yarn.  Even with all his faults I was ultimately left wanting more of Flashman and will no doubt be ordering up the second book in the series shortly.  A favourable four stars.


  1. No, no bias - its just a great book and he is such a wonderful rogue! I think we all want to be a little bit like old Flashy sometimes!

    Yours in a White Wine Sauce

  2. One of my all time favorite series!

    Yes, the original story does have the odd jarring episode where he gives women a beating, but it's the only book where he does, from my recollection. I do prefer the stories where the women are willing ( which is every other volume!).

    Sadly, the author died before he could finish all the stories he'd hinted at (ie ACW service on both sides; Victorian goldfields meeting with Lola Montez;etc.etc.) maybe another author could pick the reins? Although how these episodes can be fit into his travels in the pre jet age, I'm not sure!

    Glad you liked it. You'll enjoy the rest for sure!

    My favorite is Flashman and the Mountain of Light

    1. Of course, Flashie does meet Lola Montez (albeit rather briefly) in the next book in the series "Royal Flash".

      He is pretty brutal. However, his character is softened a bit in later books.

      Great series of books. And MacDonald also wrote the screenplay for the best of the Three Musketeer films (Richard Lester's "The Three Musketeers" 1973).

  3. Awww, Fwashy! He always makes me think - would I act like that in the same predicament?!?!?


  4. Reminds me of Rik Mayall always.....

  5. hmmm sounds like a good read..perhaps i'll pick it up thank you.

  6. I never read again of the flashman stuff but they do sound like a good one

  7. Brummie & Panzer you've got to give them ago, particularly this first instalment.

  8. Absolutely love Flashman and recommend him for all of the above and find myself laughing out loud frequently throughout a typical sitting - brilliant stuff. I'm slowly working my way through the series...

  9. I do like the part you quoted and found it very funny so I'll try and keep this series in mind.


  10. I found the 1st Flashman book back in 1970 and was taken in for a bit that he was a REAL person.Great stuff. I recently reread a few of the books to my daughter (!!??!!) who likes them. Frazer had a rant published just before he died against people who didn't "get" his stories. Some how U.S. conservatives took some comfort in his views. They had not read that Flashman on the March was written as opposition to the Iraq War.

    "Flashman's story is about a British army sent out in a good and honest cause by a government who knew what honour meant. (...) It went with the doubt that it was right. It served no politician's vanity or interest. It went without messianic rhetoric. There were no false excuses, no deceits, no cover-ups or lies, just a decent resolve to do a government's first duty: to protect its people, whatever the cost. To quote Flashman again, those were the days."

  11. ooh.I do like it when they write books about me :-D
    I like the idea with the basing rings.

  12. I've always wanted to read the Flashman books!

  13. Dude: once you become acquainted with Harry Paget Flashman -I mean really acquainted - there ain't no going back. You're hooked. My favorites? Flashy at the Charge (of the Heavy as well as the Light Brigades...); Flashy and the Redskins (Naff title, but great read), and, if you want to see Flashy as a man of his times, there's also Flashy and the Mountain of Light. But they are all, all of them, rattling good yarns.

    Be it noted, there's quite a lot of historiography - or at least writing about historiography - in these novels, featuring the occasional appendix, and not a few footnotes as well.

    The only Flashy book I lack is the last one, featuring a renewed encounter with GMF's version of Rupert Hentzau: Count Rudi von Starnberg.



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