Bernard Cornwell

Sharpe's Revenge

Book review by Anthony Campbell. Copyright © Anthony Campbell (1999).

Cornwell has traced the story of Richard Sharpe through many vicissitudes, starting in India and continuing through the wars against Napoleon. In this book we find Sharpe in France. He takes part in the battle for Toulouse, which actually happens after Napoleon's surrender although this is not known at the time. Sharpe and his companions are now looking forward, though with somewhat mixed feelings, to peace and return to England, but then Sharpe is accused of having stolen a vast treasure that had been intended for Napoleon and faces court-martial. With two friends he escapes from custody and sets out across France to try to find a man who can clear his name. But this man is killed by Sharpe's enemies before he can reach him, and when he does arrive at the chateau he is shot and wounded by the man's widow.

Full of remorse, the widow nurses Sharpe back to health. Sharpe's friend Frederickson falls for the widow and asks her to marry him, but she refuses him, and when Frederickson leaves to try to trace the chief villain, Sharpe and the widow fall in love with each other. This is a welcome event for Sharpe, whose wife is being unfaithful to him in England, although it will inevitably lead to a rift with Frederickson.

The final part of the story concerns Sharpe's quest for vengeance against the man who has instigated the false charge against him, a quest which leads him to the Kingdom of Naples where the final denouement takes place.

I enjoyed this book though I thought it stretched credulity a little. Sharpe's injuries include a broken femur and a destroyed left shoulder, either of which on its own might be expected to leave him crippled for life, yet within a few months he is sufficiently recovered to assault a stronghold and indulge in commando-style activities, though admittedly these do hurt his leg and arm somewhat. He has also learned highly idiomatic French during his romantic interlude with the widow - linguistic probability is always Corwell's weakest point. As usual in these Sharpe noveis, you have to overlook such improbabilities for the sake of the story.

%T Sharpe's Revenge
%A Cornwell, Bernard
%I HarperCollins
%C London
%D 1989
%G ISBN 0 00 651041 8
%P 348 pp
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