on 18 November 2001
Another rip-roaring adventure from the British Army's most noble cad. This adventure sees our reluctant hero caught up in the events surrounding the Indian Mutiny of 1857-58.
In a conflict notable for the sheer barbarism surrounding many of its shocking events, Flashy is at liberty to display his most dubious qualities of fear, funk, bluff and deceit. As a master of disguise (sometimes masquerading as a British officer) and armed with his consistent luck (Flashy would say bad luck) and his unfailing charm, he develops the uncanny ability to be present at almost every major event that made up the Indian Mutiny.
Whether its witnessing the first sparks of rebellion at Meerut, taking part in the ultimately horrific Siege of Cawnpore or risking his life to get a message from Lucknow to Campbell's relieving force (if this wasn't how it happened, it should have been), Flashy is there with his bowels in spasm and his innards
He manages too to meet a veritable 'Whos Who' of Victorian notables. Apart from the usual gang of Queen Victoria (Vicky), Prince Albert, Lord Palmerston (Pam), William Howard Russell and Lord Cardigan (Jim the Bear), our erstwhile warrior rubs shoulders with most of the notables of the Indian Mutiny, on both sides. On the British side he meets Sir Colin Campbell, General Wheeler, Johnny Nicholson, Major Vibart, Henry Kavanaugh, Sir James Outram, Lord Canning and Sir Hugh Rose, whilst on the rebel side he meets Nana Sahib. If you care to read about the true events surrounding the Indian Mutiny you will see these names figure prominently. History alas, was not so kind to our trembling friend Flashy.
Whilst enabling Flashman to display his usual cowardly, selfish and licentious side this conflict does enable us to glimpse a different side to Flashy too. He is genuinely appalled and angered, for instance, by some of the sights he sees during the conflict, particularly the decapitated body of his former lover and a babys hand "...like a little white crab in the dust." at Cawnpore Well. Was that also real tears we saw him shed as his schoolchum Scud East expired in his arms on a barge at Cawnpore ghat ? Careful Flashy, who knows where this could end.
He also manages to lose his heart to the enchanting Rani of Jhansi who is central to this whole tale. She is the reason he goes to India, and she soon becomes the reason he wants to stay. Beautiful she may be and clever, but we never get to know just what makes her tick, despite Flashys best attentions. Was she an enthusiastic rebel or did she have little choice but to join in ? Who knows, but she made an impression on our 'hero' and that's for sure.
Baddies abound, most notably an old adversary from 'Flashman at the Charge', Count Nicholas Ignatieff. The Russian Count is probably the most worthy foe that our hero has encountered since Rudi von Starnberg, whose voice incidentally, acts as a spur to rouse Flashman from meeting a particularly gruesome end.
For every baddie however there is a hero, no not Flashman, but his 'protector' the Afghan, Iderim Khan. This unfortunate chap had the misfortune in the first Flashman novel, 'Flashman', to be sworn to protect Flashy. Taking up his promise in this novel he has a thankless task to protect our fraudulent Hector, but manages manfully until the deception at Cawnpore. In fairness to Flashy though, there are times in this novel when he gets dangerously close to being, well, a soldier. At Cawnpore he, wait for it.......fights !
Another worthy edition to the Flashman papers then, a little slow at first, but in time you will be enthralled as you are swept up in the whirlwind of another Flasy escapade in the 'Age of Empire'. MacDonald Fraser yet again seamlessly merges historical fact with fiction in a way in which we are simultaneously educated, entertained, shocked and amused. If you didn't know much about the Indian Mutiny before this book, you know most of it by the end. Get a dusty old textbook to fill in the gaps...if you must.
The end of the novel is very clever, as we find our hero both lauded and ridiculed, as he receives the 'spoils of war' but also a rude awakening in the shape of a nasty, indeed libellous piece of literature in which he features prominently.
on 18 July 2016
Newly promoted to Colonel (as a result of his exploits in the Crimea and Central Asia - see Flashman at the Charge), Flashman is pressed by nobody less than Palmerston to undertake a political mission with Jhansi (a newly incorporated state lead by a Maharani still smarting from her demotion to British puppet). There are concerns with unrest amongst the Sepoys and with Russian agents fomenting trouble at Jhansi and elsewhere. Hoping the mission will be short and safe, Flashman accepts and actually manages to enter into a very close relationship with Maharani Lakshmibai who - surprisingly - turns out to be a most attractive young lady. Sadly, nasty Thugs (possibly hired by the evil Russian Colonel Ignatiev?) try to murder Flashman & he decides to go undercover as a Sepoy in a native cavalry regement in the Meerut garrison, posing as an Afghan frontiersman. Obviously, he gets sucked into the Mutiny, surviving the slaughter at Meerut by a happy coincidence (being otherwise occupied with a garrison lady in the bushes). From that point onwards things only get more exciting as he flees to besieged Cawnpore. I won't give away more, but I can say that this new episode is just as entertaining and educational as the other ones I read (Royal Flash, Flash for Freedom, Flashman's Lady, the Mountain of Light, Flashman at the Charge). Good stuff!
on 25 June 2014
The best of the Flashman's, with the possible exception of the Dragon, and higher praise than that I cannot give. Gives a skewed vision of the Mutiny -and the British- that Indians will dislike, given that many will consider the mutineers heroic freedom fighters struggling to free their country from a rapacious despotism. On the other hand the vicious slaughter of innocent women and children on several occasions cannot be excused, though some modern Indians are trying to whitewash these massacres out of existence. The truth in these matters is usually that there are faults and evil on both sides. Enjoy as great entertainment and leave the question of right and wrong to others, though it must be said that the British should not have been occupying India in the first place!
on 15 January 2014
This is my favourite Flashman book and possibly the best of the series. The pace is simply electric and full credit to the author who gives us what amounts to a superb potted history of the Indian Rebellion. The battle scenes themselves would be worth the asking price but GMF weaves a clever narrative around our hero who for once in his life deserves his medals, or one or two of them!
There is a clever twist to the nail-biting ending with Harry facing his maker showing compassion and forgiveness to the enemy. Good stuff this as GMF leaves the question of blame for this appalling tragedy entirely open to the reader's judgement. Blood crazed mutineers or freedom fighters throwing off the yoke of colonialism? You decide. Get it!
on 11 April 2007
I have to confess that I am a real Flashman fan, I have read many and am never ever disappointed by the writing of George McDonald Fraser.
The Flashman books follow the military career of Harry Flashman (the same Flashman as the bully in Tom Browns School Days), and follow his cowardly womanising exploits as he attempts to run away from military campaign after military campaign with the most hilarious results.
The Great Game is maybe the 5th book in the series and follows Flashman across India detailing his involvement and observations during the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857.
All the Flashman books are extremely funny and at the same time histrically accurate with the Flashman character fitting nicely into historical events. I learnt more about this unfortunate period in history from this book than 3 years of a history degree, which seemed to involve more drinking than study.
If you are familiar with Flashman you will find that the Great Game is extremely humorous, but the humour and womanising is finely balanced and helps to raise the mood as the horrific events of the rebellion are laid down in a very graphic way before you.
This book is absolutely impelling, not only the best read in the series so far, but most definately the best book I have read for a long long time. My imagination ran wild from the start of the book to the end. Harry Flashman is simply the greatest Anti Hero ever created. As you read this book you know that really you shouldn't like Flashman, you know that he is a bully and a cheat and you know that if he was real he would be the man who desperately tries to sleep with you wife. But it is absolutely impossible not to find yourself willing him on, and dare I say it even liking him.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough and even found myself Googleing many of the characters,(all of whom you will find existed)so carried away with story I actually got.
on 7 April 2014
Flashman returns to India on a mission to counter Russian rebel rousing in India. He ends up going undercover and gets into various scrapes and encounters at historic battles during the Indian Revolt. Really interesting way of introducing you to periods of history that you knew nothing about and there are plenty of footnotes and references for you to find out more of what actually happened. Fact is often more exciting than fiction but I like the way the author blends real events into Flashman's story making it so accessible to those who want a quick introduction and not through a history book.
on 8 September 2013
I have never read a Flashman book before. A friend recommended it as the historical facts are accurate but wrapped up in an easy to read adventure story. And that is exactly what this book is like. I enjoyed the anti-hero's adventures despite myself and I did learn something about this terrible period of history at the end of the British Empire. Definitely worth reading.
on 1 February 2009
In FLASHMAN IN THE GREAT GAME, Flashman is in India in 1857, doing undercover work for Lord Palmerston, when the Indian Mutiny erupts. Consistent with his other Flashman novels, George McDonald Fraser shows an immense talent for comic plausibility in FitGG as he moves Flashman into the thick of the action. This time, Flash witnesses the outbreak of the rebellion at Meerut, survives the siege and massacre at Cawnpore, does his duty at the fortress at Jhansi, where the Brits have laid a siege, and watches horrified as the beautiful Rani Lakshmibai, who Flashy may have bedded, dies in battle at Gwalior.
As a Yank, the Indian Mutiny was mostly new to me, and I frequently found myself on Wikipedia, trying to learn more about the issues and events of this terrible war, where both sides behaved with great cruelty. In doing so, I gained further respect for Fraser, who communicates the information that's on Wikipedia but with flair, occasional humor, and admirable concision. In his hands, the Mutiny becomes a tale of great adventure, where Flashman becomes a surprisingly sympathetic character, who seems mean-spirited only among other Brits.
In the first 100 pages of FitGG, Fraser sets up his story and introduces his characters. Admittedly, these pages are a little slow. But, thereafter, hold onto your hat! This is an exciting and first-rate action narrative, with Flashy, really an ordinary man, illuminating history.
Though the Flashman series by George MacDonald Fraser has been in print for decades, this is the first book that I've read. Ok, I've been inexcusably tardy; I've been busy.
As created by the author, the fictional Harry Flashman is an officer in the British Army during the reign of Queen Victoria. In FLASHMAN IN THE GREAT GAME, Flashy, by this time a colonel, is asked by Prime Minister Lord Palmerston to go to India to investigate unrest among sepoy troops, a potential uprising perhaps being fanned by Harry's old nemesis, Count Ignatieff of Russia. After Flashman arrives, he's forced to go underground by assuming the identity of a native enlistee in the 3rd Cavalry, Bengal Army - just in time to become embroiled in the Great Mutiny of 1857.
Despite Flashy's growing reputation for heroism among the Army and Her Majesty's government, he's actually the greatest of cowards. His only interests are staying out of harm's way and having sex with as many women as possible. He's a rascal and a bounder of the first order. For female readers, Flashman is the man Mom warned about. For male readers, he is, perhaps, Everyman at heart. The charm of his memoirs, "The Flashman Papers", from which each book of the series is an excerpt, derives from the total honesty by which Flashy readily admits to his character deficiencies. It's only through canny opportunism, unwelcome circumstances, and luck that Harry's renown for derring-do increases with each installment.
The appeal of Flashy's rascality aside, the strength of these stories is apparently the historical research that Fraser did to create the backdrop for Harry's adventures. In FLASHMAN IN THE GREAT GAME, the event is the savage 1857 uprising of Indian troops against their British masters that resulted in massacres of whites - men, women, and children - at such places as Meerut, Jhansi, and Cawnpore. The British reprisal was merciless. And Flashy is there to tell us all about it, as well as explain the cultural and religious factors that contributed to the bloodbath. As an instruction about something I knew nothing about, Harry's narrative more than justifies the cost of the book. (OK, so I got it free from an email pen pal. But, you get my meaning.)
As I've no other Flashman novel for comparison, I was torn between awarding 4 and 5 stars. I settled on 4 as the safe option since that leaves room for improvement, which I may discover as I read additional volumes in the series. I do have to say, however, that I found Fraser's McAuslan trilogy more humorous and appealing, perhaps because the time, place, and protagonist are more contemporary.
on 24 October 2011
I think the Flashman series are a serious contender for the British equivalent of Dumas' historical series set in the 17th century but set in the Victorian era. They are "entertaining" history. This, at times very amusing, story of the Indian Mutiny is actually a very exciting read as our hero falls out of the frying-pan and into the fire as reglarly as clockwork. His heroic reputation doesn't help either as, when there is a need for a mad, dashing hero to go out on a suicidal mission, Flasham is always "volunteered" by his peers.