Sharpe - Book Review
Updated: Apr 30, 2020
Sharpe, By Bernard Cornwell. A Book review by W.S. Petty
Bernard Cornwell is by far one of my favourite authors and I’m sure my status as a Cornwell fan boy will be obvious to anyone reading this review. Initially I was going to review each and every book in the Sharpe series individually, but having read them myself in quick succession and in chronological order, I couldn’t help but provide a write up to them all in one hit.
For those unfamiliar, Sharpe is set during the Napoleonic wars. It is the story of Richard Sharp, who was raised in a foundling home, survived in the gutter and worked his way up the ranks to be promoted, uncharacteristically for the time, to an officer in the British Army. Each and every book is superbly researched to implant the fictional Sharpe and his comrades, into very real settings and events from history. These events usually follow quite closely the British Army of the time, as commanded by Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.
The Sharpe books were written in the following order:
Sharpe’s prowess on the battlefield is wonderfully contrasted by his misfortune in love. This gives Richard Sharpe a multi layered personality whom many can identify with in some way or another. Cornwell's depiction of intersexual dynamics throughout the Army and indeed in Sharpe's own characterisation, is uncomfortably realistic.
The books were not written in order. This is largely due to the influence of TV producers once Sharpe was made into a television series, starring Sean Bean. If we take for consideration the first book written, Sharpe’s Eagle and the first book chronologically, Sharpe’s Tiger; the whole series and especially Sharpe’s Eagle are a fantastic example of what can be achieved when characters have well thought out and meaty back stories. The Star Wars prequels could have learned a lot from Cornwell. In that respect, the Sharpe series serves as an example to first time authors everywhere.
I’ve listened to a great many of these publications as audio books too. For those of you more familiar with television Sharpe, the audio books are superbly narrated by Rupert Farley. His expletives when voicing Sharpe are indistinguishable from those of Sean Bean and he brings all the other characters to life in a realistic and authentic way.
It doesn’t matter if you are looking to dive into a great lake of a saga, or you just want to dip your toe in with one book. Each story holds its own superbly as a standalone publication, while contributing to the wider story arc. However, I would recommend starting at the chronological beginning, which I’ve listed below.
In Sharpe’s Devil (1992), Sharpe meets Lord Cochrane. Cochrane was the inspiration for C.S Forester’s Hornblower and Patrick O’Brien’s Jack Aubrey. I’m told by an ardent fan of Hornblower that this is the closest they are aware to a crossover of the two franchises.
Sharpe books from the main saga, in chronological order:
22. A. Sharpe’s Skirmish – B. Sharpe’s Christmas – C. Sharpe’s Story.
Richard Sharpe, the only character tough enough to survive being played by Sean Bean. Or does he? #NOSPOILERS
My rating: Outstanding
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