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The Sharpe Series (10) – Sharpe’s Escape: The Bussaco Campaign, 1810 Paperback – 1 Nov 2004
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There's no question that Bernard Cornwell's ever-growing magnum opus consists of his books featuring the doughty soldier Richard Shape, of which Sharpe's Escape is the 20th title. All the elements that aficionados look for in Cornwell's books are firmly and satisfyingly in place. The year is 1810, and the British Army is struggling against the confident French, who are assailing Portugal once again. As British soldiers cross into Spain, they find a hunger-ridden, depleted land. In the middle of the chaos is Captain of the Light Company, Richard Sharpe, who has found a new nemesis in Ferragus, a duplicitous Portuguese man well-connected with the French invaders. However, the battle between the two men takes a more dangerous turn, when Sharpe, no longer with his regiment, takes some unorthodox routes to prosecute his personal battle. With only his ex-colleague, the reliable Sergeant Harper and a Portuguese ally, Jorge Vicente, to help confront myriad enemies, the Sharpe/Ferragus duel is fought through the ruined streets of Coimbra and on to Lisbon, as Wellington mounts a coup de grace against the French.
Bernard Cornwell fans know what to expect: vivid scene-setting and pithy historical detail (never artificially freighted in, always comfortably ensconced), exhilarating action set-pieces, and (riding above it all) the larger-than-life figure of Richard Sharpe, realised with real bravura. --Barry Forshaw
‘The Richard Sharpe novels are notable for their wonderfully astringent view of history. Sharpe is a man first and a patriot second: he is as likely to pick a fight with one of his own side as charge blindly towards the enemy.' Sunday Telegraph
‘No one is better than Bernard Cornwell in describing battles large and small, howitzer fire, cavalry charges or bayonet attacks.' Evening StandardSee all Product description
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The novel is one of the better Sharpe novels; however, the book does rely on your previous experiences of Sharpe and his sergeant Patrick Harper. Consequently, whilst a great read this is probably not the novel for a new reader to the Sharpe series to begin.
Early on, Sharpe is out patrolling, and stumbles across some Portuguese and a cache of foodstuffs at a signaling tower. He destroys the supplies, per his standing orders, but not before getting into a vicious fight with the hulking Portuguese owner of the goods. This bruiser is Ferragus, an ex-pirate, ex-slaver, and all-around successful gangster whose brother happens to be a Major of Intelligence for the Portuguese Army. These two brothers fulfill the roles of Sharpe's arch-enemies for the story, while Slingsby and Col. Lawford form the usual army irritants. Following Sharpe's initial victory, Ferragus vows to get even, and finds his chance in the chaos that results when the British pull out of Coimbra just before the French get there. Sharpe, Sgt. Harper, old pal Jorge Vicente (from Sharpe's Havoc) find themselves trapped in the city, along with a beautiful English governess. The middle portion of the book is taken up with their adventures, as they evade their Portuguese foes and the French army. Lots of derring-do, trickery, and the usual bravery and close-quarters fighting. This leads to the final third of the book, in which Sharpe's little band escapes the city and races to reach the British army lines before both Ferragus and the French.
Meanwhile, Cornwell provides small glimpses into the activities of the British Army, which entrenches itself in a 40km-long chain of forts. Called the "Lines of Torres Vedras", they were built at great expense, and yet the French are completely unaware of them. Col. Lawford rather inadvisably orders Slingsby to place the Light Company as a picket on a farm below the forts, and ultimately all forces converge there: Sharpe and company, his Portuguese nemeses, and the lead elements of Marshall Massena's army. What follows is vintage Cornwell, as he simultaneously describes the large-scale fight of the Battle of Busaco, as well as the small-scale defense of the farm by the vastly outnumbered Light Company. It's great stuff, and the only regret is that after such rousing set pieces, and the meting out of just desserts, the book ends all too quickly.
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A first class story look forward to the next book
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