7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Giving the people what they want.,
This review is from: The Triumph of the Sun: A Novel of African Adventure (The Courtneys) (Paperback)
It is by no accident that I gave this book a 5-star rating. The great enjoyment I rerived from the novel did not blind me to some rather worrying obervations about the book's content.
One of the main themes revolves around the blossoming sexuality of 17-18 year old Rebeccan Gordon. Penrod Ballantyne, one of the elite military hussars, becomes infatuated with her, and eventually uses his charms to get her into bed. Rebecca's waters first began to boil when Mr.Ballantyne mistook her for an assasin, naturally defending himself by putting her at knifepoint. Of course, all women, deep down, are aroused by male violence, and sweat under their sheets at the thought of being raped.
Then there's Ryder Courtney, an educated businessman. Doesn't have the same Lawrence of Arabia charm as Penrod, but shares his eye for 17 year old girls. Penrod goes off into the desert, and Rebecca, her weak female mind relenting to the primeval desire for a provider, allows another much older man into her bed.
Ballantyne was her fathers choice for a potential husband.
Again, I stress the term "older men". What on Earth allows men who are over 30 thinking of chasing 17-18 year olds? Yes, I am aware of the fact that society has changed dramatically since the 1800's, but I didn't think such set-in-stone rules were so malleable.
Khartoum falls, and she is taken to the Mahdi. The thought of making it with an horrid foreigner initially disgusted her, but when she saw he wasn't so bad looking, lost some of her sense revoltion. He knew exactly what to do to her, then of course, having perfect the art of pressing a womans buttons, managed to hypnotise her with lascivious pleasure. The fact she was nothing but property didn't alter her psychological standing point; if it's going to happen, after all, why not enjoy it?
The sexually explicit scenes are, despite my own political obections to the writer's motivations, very much part of the story and are thenceforth bound to win over readers. Worked for me.
The Dervish warriors are close to how bigoted Guardian readers like to view the average Muslim. I am not for one second going to suggest Smith exagerated the Devish's fantacism, but feel the timing was rather well planned; people will naturally become more emersed in a story against the currrent "bogey man" than one that resembles us as European.
I will end on a positive note. The detail and sense of drama created by Smith are second-to-none. He has obviously done an intense ammount of research, and his background as a historian is evident. His command of language is superb, making even long-winded passages a joy to emerse oneself in. This is the second of Smith's books I have read, and will most certainly read more.