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Why read it?
6 authors picked Flashman as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?
As a child I loved Thomas Hughes’s Tom Brown’s Schooldays, a Victorian novel set in Rugby, the famous boys’ school. One of the best bits was when the brutal, thuggish school bully, Flashman, was unmasked on a drunken spree and expelled. His life after school was chronicled, 100 years later, in MacDonald Frazer’s 12 Flashman novels. Far from being cowed by his disgrace, and despite his abject cowardice, fate helps Flashman to progress brazenly from strength to strength, a heartless manipulator who revels in behaving outrageously and getting away with it, runs through numberless women, and ends up covered…
Sir Harry Paget Flashman, VC, KCB, KCIE, originally appears in Thomas Hughes’ 1857 novel Tom Brown’s School Days as the notorious Rugby School bully who is expelled for drunkenness. Fraser’s reinvention of him remains one of my favourite fictional creations. Flashman’s adventures encompass many of the British Empire’s 19th-century wars, and Fraser is able to blend real historical characters and incidents with non-stop action. Flashman, which details our eponymous hero’s exploits in India and Afghanistan in the early 1840s, sets the tone for the rest of the series. It’s funny, page-turning, and extensively researched. There are even footnotes. Addictive.
If Hornblower is my favorite fictional sailor, my favorite fictional soldier is Sir Harry Paget Flashman. But while Hornblower has real courage, Flashman is an anti-hero – posturing as noble but in truth a coward, lecher, and cad. With one redeeming trait: absolute honesty in showing the 19th century as it really was. From incompetent generals to scheming statesmen and aristocrats who bribe their way to titles via sweatshops and the slave trade, Flashman gives us a dark but fascinating underside of history.
George MacDonald Fraser is, bar none, my favourite author of all time. His research is meticulous (which is just the thing for chaps like me) and the quality of his writing is superb. It’s also liberally festooned with lots of gut-busting humour, the kind that tiptoes to the edge, which is the best kind, in my opinion. Indeed, he often comes so close to the edge that I actually found myself bursting out laughing and feeling guilty about it at the same time, which somehow made it even funnier. If you want a close, in-depth look into the far-flung corners…
This often-hilarious bestseller, which went on to spawn a dozen Flashman novels in total, is a thoroughly enjoyable read. It represents historical fiction at its best, covering the Great Game, the region (India and Central Asia), and the era (British Raj).
Another book that divides in these very PC times. This is the first in a series of stories telling a kind of meta-history using mainly historical figures and also historic fictional characters. Some will remember Tom Brown’s Schooldays (published 1857). The villain of the piece was the arch cad and school bully – Flashman – who was expelled for drunkenness at the end of the novel.
More than a century later, GMF began publishing the “discovered memoirs” of Flashman – commencing with his expulsion and recreating his entire army career in which he sees action in many of the famous…
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