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George MacDonald Fraser


From the Flashman Papers, 1849-50 and 1875-76

Book review by Anthony Campbell. The review is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

This is one of the best of the brilliant Flashman novels. The story comes in two parts. In the first we find Flashman hoping to return to England with the magnificently appalling Captain John Charity Spring, MA (one of my favourite characters in the whole saga), but this arrangement falls through owing to mischance, and Flashman, who is wanted by the authorities for a number of offences and is therefore going under a pseudonym, has to flee across America with a wagon train, accompanying a travelling brothel owned by an old flame whom he has been obliged to marry (bigamously). For reasons too complicated to summarise he is eventually captured by Sioux Indians and marries (trigamously) the daughter of Chief Mangas Colorado (a historical figure). After living for some months as an Indian brave he escapes and eventually gets back to England.

After this action-filled drama the second part of the book begins a little anti-climactically. A quarter-century later Flashman, now in his fifties, returns to the USA as an honoured guest, accompanied by Lady Flashman. However, the narrative temperature rises when his past catches up with him and this leads to his being present (unwillingly, of course) at Custer's defeat at Little Bighorn, where he is rescued by … but you should read the book to find out.

Although the Flashman books are mainly novels of action combined with comedy, they are also excellent historical novels which I think bear comparison with Patrick O'Brian's sea novels for their ability to recreate the authentic feel of the time. In this case we get an impression of what it was like to travel in the American West, much of which was still almost unknown at the time. Another similarity with the O'Brian books is that, in both series, the central characters develop over time in believable ways. This is particularly the case in the present book, where we find Flashman himself being surprised by his own reaction to events. The Flashman series has psychological depth as well as historical verisimilitude.

As usual, the book includes extensive notes which add information that it would not have been possible for Flashman himself to provide, as well as comments on his descriptions and corrections where necessary. The notes are particularly full in this case.

%T Flashman and the Redskins
%S From the Flashman Papers,1849-50 and 1875-76
%A Fraser, George MacDonald
%I HarperCollins
%C London
%D 1982, 1999
%G ISBN 0-00-651300-X
%P xiv + 512 pp
%K fiction
%O paperback edition

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