Top positive review
58 people found this helpful
So much better than fiction...
on 16 June 2004
I first became aware of Josiah Harlan through the fantastic "Flashman and the Mountain of Light" (and if you haven't read that then you must) and I've always wanted to know more about him. So it was a joy to hear that this book had been written. Harlan's life is even more fascinating and incredible than I had dared to imagine after his appearance in "Flashman" - an American Quaker who conned his way to becoming a surgeon for the East India Company, then decided to invade Afghanistan on behalf of its exiled king. He ended up as a not-so-minor potentate in the wilds of Central Asia, which is the part of his background that makes him the obvious candidate as the inspiration for Kipling's "Man Who Would Be King".
Ben Macintyre writes beautifully, and he manages to evoke the landscape and the time wonderfully. His style is inclusive, and his humorous asides are no distraction - if anything they enhance the book. In fact, even if you aren't particularly interested in Josiah Harlan I would still recommend it for Macintyre's writing.
I generally don't like to write a review without at least one little gripe. Unfortunately my one and only gripe for this book is very, very small indeed - when describing part of Alexander the great's campaign he says that Alexander defeated Darius the Great. He didn't - Darius The Great was an earlier Persian king. There, gripe over - and pretty insignificant it was, too, eh?