Friday, August 15, 2014

Forgotten Books: SHARPE'S WATERLOO by Bernard Cornwell (1990)

It's been a long, bloody, and bloody marvelous journey following Richard Sharpe from Sharpe's Tiger in 1799 India to this butt-kicking battle sixteen years later at Waterloo, and I enjoyed every second of it. (I'm now reading Sharpe's Devil, sort of a postscript to the series, which takes place five years after Waterloo, and when that's finished I'll probably read all 21 books--and three short stories--over again.)

Having heard the name Waterloo just about forever, I was amazed to discover just how little I really knew. I had no idea, for instance, that it was a tiny unknown village in the Netherlands--an area that would eventually become Belgium.

Like all of Cornwell's novels, this one lays out the battle so well I felt like I was right there, fighting alongside Sharpe and his longtime sidekick Patrick Harper. Cornwell himself described the book as having almost no plot, because all he had to do was tell the story of the battle, dropping Sharpe into the mix for flavor. It's true that Sharpe has less to do here than usual, and he is at the mercy of events rather than vice versa, but Cornwell's storytelling is so good, and the battle so fascinating that it doesn't matter.

I see that Cornwell has a new book out, titled simply Waterloo, presenting his own nonfiction study of the battle. I'm looking forward to that. It'll be interesting to see how it compliments and differs from this novel, written 25 years ago.

More Forgotten Books at pattinase (I think).


George said...

I'm a fan of Sharpe, too! But I've only read a half dozen of them (although I've read a dozen of Cornwall's other historical novels). I read a Sharpe book and then I watch the Sean Bean version of Sharpe's adventure on DVD. Great stuff!

Gerard said...

It is a fantastic series. I knew little to nothing about the battle and Cornwell did a great job in relaying what happened. I read this one several years ago but still recall several parts of the novel.

Allan Mallinson's HERVEY series has a Waterloo entry that is also quite good, A CLOSE RUN THING. Mallinson's Hervey is in the cavalry and his novels give detail on the horses and their care. I'm no horseman and enjoyed learning how they trained, fed, or planned marches with the animals.

Cap'n Bob said...

I recommend the movie WATERLOO, with Rod Steiger as Napoleon. It details the battle very nicely.