Tuesday, February 07, 2006

From the Bookshelf

I just finished Flashman's Lady by George MacDonald Fraser. Sadly, although I have been reading it forever (a couple of pages a night is all I can usually manage), I give it a thumbs down.

The conceit of the Flashman books is that a highly decorated war hero in the Victorian British army is actually a bully and a coward (not to mention a horny misogynist and a racist). Also, Sir Harry Flashman always seems to turn up at pivotal scenes from the Victorian Era: Kabul when the British were expelled from Afghanistan in the 1840s, India during the first Sikh War, Nanking during the Taiping Rebellion, Crimea at the Charge of the Light Brigade (yelling "Turn back, you idiots!"), etc., with some excursions to the United States thrown in: Custer's last stand and John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry, for example.

Maybe I am bored with the character: all the racism and misogyny can be quite much. Or maybe it was the choice of minor historical elements in this story.

Anyway, those British sure were funny emperors. I highly recommend David Fromkin's A Peace to End all Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East to see how their emperor skills served them poorly during and after World War I. Come to think of it, they served the Middle East pretty poorly too. And everybody else, for that matter.

Truly a parable for our age.

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