Saturday, December 25, 2010

Over the Hills and Far away

I've previously written about the Sharpe Television series, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Well since watching the series I've read the books, and my opinion of the character and his creator has only gone up. Here is a tough as nails, no nonsense guy who could give almost any action hero a run for his money. He knows his weakness, and is ashamed of most, and would almost rather cut his own leg off as ask for help.

Favoring the straight forward approach to most problems, the series follows his path from a Private in the British infantry in India. All manners of trials and travails follow, taking part in the bulk of the western land battles of the Napoleonic era.. and one Sea Battle which is perhaps the most preposterous of the books plotwise.. but still a great romp due to how well written Nelson is. He encounters innumerable foes, but only a few villains. One of these, I'd easily rate as one of the greatest villains of all time. It's truly a shame they didn't have the India trilogy when Pete Postlewaite was playing Hakeswille...

Over the course of the year, I've read the entire run of Sharpe's novels in Chronological order. There are a few inconsistencies but most are not anything major. The Television series is truly a great companion piece to the books, even though it did require some creative finagling to explain how London Boy Sharpe, spoke with Bean's Sheffield accent.

I feel this series as a whole is one which REH would have enjoyed, I think he especially would have enjoyed Patrick Harper, so I do. The wine swilling, dark haired Irishmen would be right at home among REH's Celtic heroes. Singing songs of Cuchulain as he wades into battle brandishing his 7 barreled rigging gun, yet quick with a joke or a hand up to his friends should they need it.

When dealing with any series the length of the Sharpe series, you are bound to have your down points along the way, I've pretty collectively rated the books highly based mainly on the series as a whole. The individually poor books are buoyed by the fact that none of them are unreadable.. but some do veer a bit too much into the fantastical. The very concept that Sharpe could have been at both Trafalgar and Waterloo is pretty preposterous.

The books tend to be very well researched as far as historical details are concerned, and Mr. Cornwell gets a lot of credit from me for including historical notes in the back of his book. He frequently sites non fiction works which contain a very complex history of the Napoleonic war in Spain and Portugal. I imagine for many American's this period dosen't have much interest, though we did become a belligerent in a sideshow of the wars in Europe, we pretty much came out of it in the + column as a newly united country with a national anthem and some new national myths to add to Washington crossing the Delaware and valley forge.. but for me, a good chunk of my family were still in England at this time.. and one poor soul was even killed during the battle of San Jose De Tenerife, that would be the same battle that Admiral Nelson was when he lost his arm. So In that regard it let me see just how my anscestors may have lived, and for that I enjoyed it even more, and marvel even more at the tenacity they must have shown to survive. Truly we have come a long long way in 200 years and I'd not trade it to live in any other time period.

But as for listing a specific reason as to why I liked the series so much, its something I have a difficult time quantifying.. all the things I listed make up part of it.. they are all important.. and all add something to my enjoyment of the series. Your mileage is likely to vary, what one person likes another is equally capable of disliking.. I'm sorry its over, but the series is frequently compared to Patrick O'brian's Aubry and Maturin series.. this is an author I've not yet read but have spent the last 2 years collecting that series. I plan to read these over 2011, and see how well they do for the sea, what Sharpe did for the land battles. So I'm really looking forward to giving it a shot.


Brian Murphy said...

Nice review, and I'm more convinced than ever that I must read these books. I'm also not too strong in my knowledge of the Naploeonic era and would like to rectify that. Cornwell is just so darned readable!

Lagomorph Rex said...


I recently concluded a purchase with for the 12 volume Sharpe's dvd set for a whopping £12.30 and £3.08 shipping.. for a total of just about 26.00$

Compared to the ludicrous 299.99 that the US set costs.. I think I got a steal.. But it would be less of a good deal if I had to buy an unlocked DVD player instead of already having several of them.. but would still be a bargain..