Flashman and the Tiger
is George MacDonald Fraser's 11th chronicle of Sir Harry Flashman, a "celebrated Victorian soldier, scoundrel, amorist, and self-confessed poltroon." Written with great wit and ingenuity, the series is presented as a succession of long-lost memoirs, which Fraser is simply editing for a modern readership. Thus does he interrupt Sir Harry's voice with footnotes, appendices, and tail-gunning apologies. Indeed, Fraser, whose editorial persona is humorless and academic, seems almost embarrassed in the presence of his subject's unbridled self-love.
This time the year is 1878, and Flashman is poking his nose into some deep political intrigue for a journalist friend who's done him various unsavory favors. Our favorite swashbuckler has just returned from Paris, where he was awarded the Legion of Honor. Yet readers familiar with Flashman's saga will know this is simply one more piece of tin to add to his capacious collection--and that even as he's revered by those around him, he finds it impossible to take himself seriously. Instead he regards himself as "one of those fortunate critters who ... are simply without shame, and wouldn't know Conscience if they tripped over it in broad day."
As usual, Flashman stumbles through history like a bull in a china shop. At the end of the first section, "The Road to Charing Cross," we realize that he's delayed the onset of World War I by various wranglings with the would-be assassins of Emperor Franz Josef of Austria. The following sections put him in contact with the Prince of Wales, a procession of remarkable whores, Zulu warriors, and yet more remarkable whores. Fraser's brashly perfect prose both fuels and awakens the imagination. And in the end the reader has to wonder: which wars almost came to pass, but were averted by a half-drunk war hero with a lust for life? --Emily White
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From Publishers Weekly
P.G. Wodehouse said of the first Flashman novel that it was "the goods." Three decades and 11 "packets" of Flashman papers later, Fraser's indomitable Victorian scoundrel remains one of English literature's finest comic creations. This latest installment consists of three short adventures, all taking place in the late 19th century. In the first and longest episode, Flashy attends the Congress of Berlin, crosses paths with his old enemy Bismarck and gets dragged into a complicated plot to save Austria's Emperor Franz-Josef from assassination and Europe from world war. Not all the diplomatic intrigue is scintillating, but Fraser concludes on a strong note, sending Flashy off on yet another doomed military expedition just as he thinks he's home safe at last. Comic reversal figures as well in the second story, centered on a card-cheating scandal involving the prince of Wales, the future Edward VII. The hilarious exchange at the end between Flashman and his dizzy wife, Elspeth, is reminiscent of Bertie and Jeeves in their prime. In the final, title tale, Flashy, disguised as a poor drunk, sneaks into an empty London house to stop a certain Tiger Jack Moran from his evil plot to ravish Flashy's beloved granddaughter, only to find that two men, who look like "a poet and a bailiff," have ambushed the creep already. The deed done, Flashman listens as the "poet" makes some deliciously inaccurate deductions about the scruffy, drunk derelict, our hero. Throughout, Flashman alludes to disastrous exploits not yet published (Gordon at Khartoum, Maxmillian in Mexico, etc.). Readers can only hope that Fraser will enjoy the kind of longevity and productivity that defined the distinguished career of his mentor Wodehouse, and continue with this exceptional series. (Aug.) FYI: Fraser has written the screenplays for Richard Lester's The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers, as well as for the James Bond film Octopussy.
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