Carrying on with my Short Read Sunday post, I decided to dive back into a series I have always loved, dating back to the days when Sean Bean played the rugged Richard Sharpe on TV. The books are set during my favourite period in history (Napoleonic) so it was a no-brainer as far as choices went for my next short read.
Richard Sharpe short story, featuring scenes of action and adventure at Christmas.
‘You’ll like Irati,’ Colonel Hogan said. ‘It’s a nothing place, Richard. Hovels and misery, that’s all it is and all it ever will be, but that’s where you’re going for Christmas.’
Sharpe was sent to Irati because maybe the French were going there. The garrison planned to march at Christmas in the hope that their enemies would be too bloated with beef and wine to fight, but Hogan had got wind of their plans and was now setting his snares on the only two routes that the escaping French could use. One, the eastern road, was by far the easier route, for it entered France through a low pass, and Hogan guessed it was that route that the French would choose. But there was a second road, a tight, hard, steep road, and that had to be blocked as well and so the Prince of Wales’s Own Volunteers, Sharpe’s regiment, would climb into the hills and spend their Christmas at a place of hovels and misery called Irati.
Soldier, hero, rogue – Sharpe is the man you always want on your side. Born in poverty, he joined the army to escape jail and climbed the ranks by sheer brutal courage. He knows no other family than the regiment of the 95th Rifles whose green jacket he proudly wears.
Author: Bernard Cornwell
Release Date: 15/12/2011
Genre: Historical Fiction
My chosen format: Kindle
My rating of ‘Sharpe’s Christmas’: 4 out of 5
The Sharpe novels, by Bernard Cornwell, are one of, if not my all time, favourite series of novels. Set mostly during the Napoleonic wars (three of them are set earlier during England’s campaigns in India) they tell the story of Richard Sharpe, the son of a whore and all-round gutter-born lowlife who, to avoid the law, enlisted with the King’s army. Sharpe lives in a time where money and bloodlines buy you rank within the army and, despite an enlisted man becoming an officer being rarer than a four-leaved clover, does his level-best to work his way up through the ranks of the British army. It’s a true underdog series spanning an impressive twenty-one novels. With an awful lot of fighting, battle, bloodshed, comradery and swearing thrown in to give it an authentic feel.
Right, my little bit of Sharpe-loving backstory out of the way, on to the main review:
The kindle versions of the Sharpe books have, sadly, opted for much less impressive cover designs than the paperback counterparts. This short story is no exception to that rule. The blurb is equally uninspiring as it is simply an extract from the work itself.
Upon cracking the story open, you are greeted with a foreword from the author stating that the story was written to be used in a newspaper (told in four instalments of four-thousand words each). Sadly, this does mean that the ruggedness that I am used to from a Sharpe novel is gone. You still get the blood and the battles, but the coarse language that has been so big a part of the day to day life of the army throughout the Sharpe series is gone (understandably, as any age could pick a newspaper up). My only moan is that Sharpe almost sounds too polite. Certainly not the Richard Sharpe I am used to reading.
That negative aside, Sharpe’s Christmas is an enjoyable read for any fan of the Sharpe series due to the reminiscing of Sharpe’s time in India. The trip down memory lane gets even better when he winds up meeting an unlikely friend from his Indian campaign days. Bernard Cornwell does a good job of creating and fleshing characters out over so short a piece on both the English and the French side of things.
As you would expect from a Christmas piece, it is a bit of a ‘feel good’ story, even though there is a lot of pain and suffering on behalf of the poor Frenchmen tasked with going up against Sharpe and his riflemen.
Sharpe’s Christmas is both enjoyable to fans who have read multiple novels, the India ones included, and to new fans of the franchise it would be an easy introduction into Sharpe’s world. Reading this has made me want to dive back into the Sharpe series, so expect to see more reviews featuring my favourite fictional Yorkshireman.