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This review is from: Soldier Stories (Kindle Edition)
"He has received just sufficient education to make him understand half the purport of the orders he receives, and to speculate on the nature of clean, incised, and shattering wounds." ‒ from SOLDIER STORIES, on the first-enlistment Tommy
"So we loosed a bloomin' volley,
An' we made the beggars cut,
An' when our pouch was emptied out,
We used the bloomin' butt,
Don't yer come anigh,
When Tommy is a playin' with the baynit an' the butt."
‒ from SOLDIER STORIES, a barrack room ballad
Queen Victoria may have ruled the Empire, but it was her soldiers, sailors, and colonial administrators that bore its weight. Here, in SOLDIER STORIES, are seven of Rudyard Kipling's short stories, most of which have three recurring characters: Terence Mulvaney, Stanley Ortheris, and John Learoyd ‒ all rank-and-file Tommies serving (at one point or another) in India and Burma. The short story "The Drums of the Fore and Aft" takes place in Afghanistan and has as its two heroes the drummer boys Jakin and Lew.
The time is the 1880s.
The principle character is Mulvaney, and his "Oirish" dialect is quite often difficult to comprehend and it takes getting used to. I sometimes just resorted to skimming the text for the gist of it. That said, Mulvaney is an enormously appealing fellow. I wonder if his character may have served to some extent as the basis for McAuslan of George MacDonald Fraser's McAuslan series (The Complete McAuslan) although the latter was a Scotsman.
SOLDIER STORIES open a small window of insight in what it was like to serve with Her Majesty's regiments, either on the front lines or in the cantonments in Afghanistan, India, and Burma. It should appeal to any casual student of the British Empire and the colonial British Army. And, for the most part, the plots of the stories will leave the reader satisfied. Only "The Man Who Was" seemed incomplete and left me wondering what the entire backstory was.
SOLDIER STORIES is a worthwhile read if your interests encompass the subject matter.
Note: The Kindle edition omits the end-of-chapter illustrations presumably included in the printed-text editions.