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91 of 95 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply The Best
A friend of mine last year had to spend some time in the delightful town of Kabul. Prior to his departure I managed to secure a copy of this book for him; I hoped that he would see the funny side of me giving him a story which involved one of the greatest military defeats ever retreating from the very place he was being sent to.
I knew though that I was also giving...
Published on 19 Feb 2003 by T Marshall

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyment largely depends on interest in that historical event
I went into this with really high expectations based of several glowing reviews from friends, which is probably why I wasn't as blown away. I have clearly read the works of several authors who were inspired by this series meaning it's no longer that shocking an anti-hero. It didn't help that I'm just not interested in the particular setting (other books in the series seem...
Published 3 months ago by Neil J. Pearson


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91 of 95 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply The Best, 19 Feb 2003
By 
T Marshall (Hampshire) - See all my reviews
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A friend of mine last year had to spend some time in the delightful town of Kabul. Prior to his departure I managed to secure a copy of this book for him; I hoped that he would see the funny side of me giving him a story which involved one of the greatest military defeats ever retreating from the very place he was being sent to.
I knew though that I was also giving him the start of the most enjoyable series of books I had ever read, and that if he gleaned even half as much enjoyment from it as I had, then he would have his stay brightened considerably.
For those of you who have never heard of Harry Flashman before, he is the bully and cad from Tom Brown's Schooldays (and incidentally the only character worth remembering amongst the various hypocritical do-gooding manly little Christians that are otherwise described). The story starts where his exit from Rugby in Tom Brown had ended, his being expelled for drunkenness. He consequently joins the army, not with a view to doing any valuable service but as an occupation he could loaf and skive to his hearts content (not that much has changed at Horse Guards since). With a constant eye for the ladies his tale makes an interesting one (especially as he was such a nasty piece of work) even before he was posted to Afghanistan. When he arrives in India we discover, as he does, that he has a talent for horse-riding and languages as well as with the ladies, and so makes an interesting correspondent for us as readers, as he can be shifted to wherever the action is with relative ease. The fact that when the author does so he tends to either be chasing skirt, or running away like the coward he is (directly into trouble more often than not), again makes the whole thing more interesting.
I do believe that although there are no redeeming qualities about Flashman's character we are dragged into liking him due to his honesty as a writer (for these papers are his recollections) and his bucket loads of style. He's also damnably funny.
I recommend this book to all who love life being lived at full throttle (even if the gear selected is usually reverse), also all those who wish to learn about the Empire as it truly was. Go on, treat yourself today, buy a Flashman!
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65 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A1, 100%, top-hole read, 10 Sep 2004
The first and possibly best of the Flashman tales. If you've not read and Flashman books then you've not lived. You've certainly not read anything like them. He's the original anti-hero. You've no doubt watched heroic action films and thought "why doesn't he just shoot the guy in the back right now and run for it?...I would" - well Flashman would too and a whole lot worse, if it gets him off the hook or into bed with his many lovers.
It's a unique blend of historical research, incredible adventures, philandering, thieving, bullying and above all - brilliant story-telling shot through with a breath of refreshing cynicism. Utterly brilliant stuff. I just wish George McDonald Fraser could write some more.
One caveat - GMF tells it like it is. If people in 1820 used a certain word for slaves then he uses it too. If you are a bit PC you might not like it.
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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant first part of a romp through the history of the British Empire, 5 Jan 2008
By 
Nicholas J. R. Dougan "Nick Dougan" (Kent, UK) - See all my reviews
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Flashman is great reading and I recommend the novels thoroughly. George MacDonald Fraser (GMF) died just a week ago and some of the obituaries have hinted that one should be ashamed to have read this obscene, racist, nostalgic pulp fiction for men who should know better.

If you have read the books or other reviews, you will realise that Flashman is an "anti-hero". This first novel was set against the background of the disastrous 1841-2 campaign in Afghanistan, which led to the total destruction of a British Army. Synopses of the books regularly describe him as "impostor, coward, cad, blackguard, scoundrel, villain, arch-cad, poltroon and amorist". Nevertheless, the late Auberon Waugh wrote "twice as good as Buchan, and twenty times better than Fleming", but this points up an interesting distinction: John Buchan's Richard Hannay, though crafted from 1914 to the 1930s, was as conventional a Victorian hero as you might like to meet while Ian Fleming's James Bond was perhaps Britain's first "anti-hero", pre-dating Flashman by almost 15 years in print. While Bond was certainly ruthless, lucky, arguably cynical and even psychopathic, however, he was no coward. Flashman is a contrast both to the Victorian hero and the post-war anti-hero.

What makes them so readable? GMF wrote Flashman's dialogue idiomatically in a style that seems genuinely redolent of the Leicestershire "squirarchy" into which he was fictionally born. Supposedly the great-grandson of an East India Company "nabob", his father a bluff countryman MP who loses his seat after the Great Reform Act of 1832, and whose manners are (possibly) worse even than his own. "Dammee, Sir, d'ye know what a dragoon's commission costs?" The language gives rise to the suggestion of racism: the "n-" word is frequently used, although bear in mind that Flashman pretty well dislikes everyone, even those of his own background and class.

Then there is the sexism, evident as much from his lecherous conduct as his phraseology. I have always been surprised when I have seen women reading Flashman books, but many do, as can be seen from the list of reviewers. In fact, many of the (mostly historical) heroines of the Flashman books are far more effective creatures than the eponymous anti-hero, although (happily for the storyline) rarely any more moral.

I suspect that GMF was in part making a point about bravery: "This myth called bravery, which is half-panic, half-lunacy...pays for all." (p289) Flashman is entirely cowardly and his supposed acts of bravery happen only reactively when he has no other choice (where they are not mere misinterpretation). Was GMF, whose own wartime experiences (read McAuslan and Quartered Safe over Here) qualified him to comment, making the point that "bravery" may have been, in many cases, the result of the narrow victory of pride and fear of loss of reputation over Flashman-esque "funk".

In writing Flashman, GMF may achieved the same inadvertent effect of e.g. Harry Enfield's Loadsamoney and the Alex cartoon in the Daily Telegraph: he created a character readers were challenged to recognise and be disgusted by, but instead they loved him. GMF used Flashman to criticise both Victorian pride and racism, allowing him to rail against the "vastly conceited and indignant public [that] would clutch at any straw that might heal their national pride and enable them to repeat the old and nonsensical lie that one Englishman is worth twenty foreigners (p259)".

On re-reading Flashman, I was on the lookout for anachronisms; I am sure that there must be some, although I cannot claim to have found any myself. For example, I thought Flashman's description of himself, on reunion with his wife Elspeth, as "romantic and horny all at once" must surely have been an anachronism - when was "horny" - in that sense - first used in English? The answer, in fact, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, was the late 19th Century, and there was therefore plenty of time for the ageing Flashman to have adopted the usage. GMF's historical precision is outstanding - there are thirty footnotes in this first novel, (and 61 longish ones in the last one).

I have regrets about GMF's low productivity of Flashman after 1990, when his attention turned to factual history. In "Flashman", the eponymous hero, looking back, refers to 4 inches in Who's Who. In the twelfth and last novel, "Flashman on the March", published 2005, there were 10 inches of Who's Who style "biographical note" at the beginning of the novel. Sadly, not all of these "exploits" made it into the novels, the principal omission being his involvement in the US Civil War, which was described as follows: "U.S. Army (major, Union forces, 1862, colonel (staff) Army of the Confederacy (1863)". I hope against hope that Flashman's Civil War episodes may emerge after GMF's death, but cannot imagine why the author would have held them back had he written them. Time will tell: perhaps there is an unfinished novel.

Meanwhile, though it certainly won't be for everyone, I unreservedly recommend "Flashman" (and the other Flashman novels) as a hilarious but informative romp through the history of the British Empire.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Belly laughs and bad behaviour aplenty, 17 Dec 2007
By 
R. J. Hobson (London) - See all my reviews
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I'm sure I'm not the only reviewer to point this out: Flashman does not do "PC". It's the early 19th century, and they didn't even call police PCs back then. So if you're offended by fairly ripe and unflinching use of derogatory terms for women, the lower classes and every race apart from the English, give Flashman a miss. You won't like him.

Get past that, and you've made friends with one of the most engaging cowards and bastards ever committed to paper. Flashman has a yellow streak a mile wide, a lascivious streak at least a kilometre wider than that, and the most undeserved reputation for gallantry since David stole Bathsheba. Start the series with this book: if you're not hooked by page 10, I recommend Thomas a Kempis "The Imitation of Christ" and a sense of humour injection.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally Addictive!, 30 Nov 2005
I originally bought this as part of my husbands Christmas box, and couldn't resist having a read of the first few pages. Well, that was it, I was totally hooked! I did a bit of lying of my own to stay in and finish the book (I read it in a weekend!). My husband gave me a few funny looks when I was laughing at Flashman getting into a fix, and wheedling himself out of it! I'm gald I looked beyond the 'Boy's Own' adventure type image, and now I'm looking forward to reading the rest!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The First Flashy Tale, 21 April 2008
By 
B. J. Madeley - See all my reviews
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This is the first of the Flashman novels, it begins with the title character being expelled from school for drunken behaviour and follows him as he joins the army and gets sent to India and then Afghanistan. Here Flashy is involved in the disastrous British military retreat from Kabul, yet he somehow manages to come out with flying colours - as ever.

If you've read other Flasman novels before, this is typical of them all. Flashy is up to all his usaul tricks and misdemeanors, whilst still somehow coming out appearing to be a great hero It's as enjoyable as ever and very easy to read but I didn't find it amazingly gripping as I have done with some books.

On the whole I think this book is thoroughly worth reading as are all the Flashman novels that i've read, just don't expect it to blow you away.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top hole!, 10 Jun 2005
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This is one of the best rip-roaring, belly-laughing, non-PC, wench-bedding, wondrous tales ever. The Flashman series is simply superb OTT entertainment.
Flashman thrashes, roars, cheats, and romps his way through the book. He puts so much effort into being the lazy cad that you can't help but like him - bounder that he is.<PGet this and put some fun into your reading!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rogue, bounder, cad...and hero?, 27 Sep 2010
By 
John Middleton (Brisbane, QLD, AUST) - See all my reviews
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Flashman is a rogue, bounder, and cad: the archetypical anti-hero. Duplicitous and sneering, yet publicly charming, the most noble thing he does in this opening volume of the Flashman Papers (12 in all) is to seduce his father's mistress. After that, its off to foreign parts - India and Afghanistan - surrounded by historical figures and partaking of historical events, all told with wit and mocking insight.

In the 1960's George Macdonald Fraser set out to write some stories set in the golden age of the British Empire - well, golden from a certain point of view, anyway. To do this, he set an anti-hero loose in Victorian England, and gave him free reign to do as he would, so long as he reported truly. The Flashman Papers were the result - and apparently on first publication, some papers assumed that this was not a work of fiction, but a true history.

Sexist, racist, and whatever else, Flashman is unique. He gives us a new pair of eyes on which to view the past, and GMF tells the story in fine style. In addition, the history that Flashman occupies is true, and (comparatively) rigorously footnoted. Here Flashy is leaving school (as told in Tom Brown's Schooldays) and joining the Army, getting mixed up in the great events of the day.

This is superb reading, true history written as fiction. It is both laugh out loud funny and sombering, a wonderful window into the past.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Damned spanking read, thank'ee., 15 Oct 2008
This was the first of the Flashman books that I read, and I bought it expecting to be disappointed. Well, I wasn't. It was very enjoyable and, although I had expected a whole lot more humour, there were a few laugh-out-loud moments. It's true there are some shockingly awful scenes in it: kicking one's batman, thrashing the natives and having it away with a fellow officer's wife just ain't the behaviour of a gentleman, but even they'll make you smile unless you're a complete prude. It's a splendidly well written story and the whole things hangs together, even if it is asking a bit much of the reader to believe in the several strokes of luck that the hero enjoys.

Now I'm off to read the next in the series.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyment largely depends on interest in that historical event, 26 Aug 2014
By 
Neil J. Pearson (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Flashman (The Flashman Papers, Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
I went into this with really high expectations based of several glowing reviews from friends, which is probably why I wasn't as blown away. I have clearly read the works of several authors who were inspired by this series meaning it's no longer that shocking an anti-hero. It didn't help that I'm just not interested in the particular setting (other books in the series seem more appealing). The nail in the coffin, which isn't the author's fault at all, is that I got the voice of Russel Brand in my head very early in my reading which was very distracting.
All these issues really aren't the fault of the book (moreso the fault of its success) so I do have to commend Flashman as being a character that is pretty repulsive but oddly like-able - probably in large part due to the excellent use of a first person narrative. It's also clear that Fraser has really done his homework on the period in question as it feels pretty real. Anyone familiar with the setting in history will probably enjoy the book far more which is why I may just skip to a book that covers an event that I'm interested in rather than sticking to a chronological order. I think my opinion would improve considerably in that case.
An annoying issue I found with my kindle copy is that I couldn't find a way to easily access the footnotes, littered throughout the book. In a real book, I'd just turn to the back but (for me) this is a lot more faff with an ebook so I missed out on the extra content at the time of reading.
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Flashman (The Flashman Papers, Book 1)
Flashman (The Flashman Papers, Book 1) by George MacDonald Fraser
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