2004-05-26 · in Books, Sharpe · 345 words

The French! He had no more breath. Harper had disappeared. Sharpe hurdled a fire and ran full tilt into a Sergeant who held on to him and supported him as he gasped for breath.

What's happening, sir?

French column. Coming this way.

The Sergeant was bewildered. Why didn't the first line stop them?

Sharpe looked at him, astonished. You are the first line!

No one told us!

Claire gave me this book along with a load of others — thanks very much!

The series follows Richard Sharpe's rise through the ranks of the British army during the Napoleonic wars. In "Sharpe's Eagle", a monumentally stupid tactical decision from Sharpe's part-time nemesis Sir Henry Simmerson results in the loss of a regimental colour, and Sharpe is forced to restore the regiment's honour.

Having watched and enjoyed the ITV adaptations of the (earlier) Sharpe stories last year, I was curious to see how much they'd changed for this one. As I expected, there's a lot of detail in the books that's glossed over in the TV adaptation: for example, where we see Sharpe put his jacket on in the adaptation, we find out from the book that he's thinking how he'd rather wear his well-worn jacket and French boots than a new uniform, and that he's made sure to check his clothes for lice. The general feel of the storytelling is much the same, though, and knowing how things were going to turn out didn't spoil the book at all.

We're presented with a set of reasonably believable and likable characters — they do tend to be either good or irredeemably evil, although Sharpe doesn't really strike me as someone who sees the world in shades of grey — and the pacing's just right. It was perhaps a bit more obvious in the book that this story's really about how a single bad decision can have irreversible and extremely wide-ranging consequences in wartime.

I liked this, and I'm looking forward to reading more in the series; I've got some later books on my to-read pile at the moment.