Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Let's Hear It for the Boys - Sharpe series by Bernard Cornwell

Published: November 1997
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 400
Copy: my own
Summary: Goodreads

As a young man, Sharpe is an illiterate private who must pose as a deserter to oust the ruthless Tippoo of Mysore from his throne. "The world may have a new literary hero. His name is Richard Sharpe."--"Philadelphia Inquirer."

Ok, so you are looking at the summary here and thinking to yourself - what's so special about this one?  The answer - everything!  Bernard Cornwell is an English author who started writing the Sharpe series in 1980 beginning with Sharpe's Eagle and then Sharpe's Gold.  The series was fairly successful and then they made a tv series based on the books and things catapulted from there.  Mr. Cornwell then wrote several prequels to his original books and continued the stories, so that the total is now 21 full length novels and several short stories.  Sharpe's Tiger is the first book chronoligically, but not the first book written.
The main protagonist throughout this series is Richard Sharpe (known as Dick) and his is at once the most endearing and frustrating character that I have ever read.  Through each book Sharpe surprises at every turn.  He is a killer with a conscience, a naive ladies man, a good friend and a fierce enemy.  He is one of those people who does the right thing, just because.  He doesn't plan on doing it - it just happens.  He is a superb leader, who may not be book smart, but is definitely smart as a whip.  Half the time I wanted to kill him myself and the other half I was cheering him on. The books chart his career in the army from Private to Major and you will enjoy the antics he gets up to as a rifleman - both legal and illegal.
There are a hosts of secondary characters that you'll come to love just as much as Sharpe, like his friend Sargeant Harper who watches his back at every turn, and other characters that you will hate with a passion, like Sargeant Hakeswill - in my humble opinion one of the best bad guys to be found in books today.  The books are so well written that the characters become like family and you laugh, cry and hurt along with them.
Each one of the books is centred around a British military battle, starting in India in 1799 and continuing through Waterloo and beyond.  The battle scenes are suitably bloody and gruesome with a wealth of detail about each one that is historically accurate, but never subtracts from the enjoyment of the story.  I personally have read every one of them and enjoyed them so much I went out and bought them all - well not quite, I think I'm still missing 5.
Mr Cornwell has also written other series, including the Starbuck Chronicles - which is about the US Civil War, The Arthur books, about King Arthur, The Grail Quest - about the search for the holy grail; and many others.  If you are at all interested in seeing a list of what he has written check out HERE.   I wouldn't hesitate to recommend these books to anyone over 16, male or female, because they are so good, but there is a particular appeal for guys because of the war element.  I have yet to recommend them to someone who has not enjoyed them, so try them out and see what you think. 
PS Guys, need a book for a book review or ISU at school and don't have a clue what to read? These books will possibly fit the bill unless your teacher wants a literary classic.  They are definitely classics, but I don't think they quite fall under the literary banner!

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