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Royal Flash (Flashman) Paperback – March 1, 1985
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Praise for the Flashman series
“Hilariously funny.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Great dirty fun!”—Grand Rapids Press
“The most entertaining anti-hero in a long time… Moves from one ribald and deliciously corrupt episode to the next… Wonderful and scandalous.”—Publishers Weekly
“Raises dastardliness to the level of an art… One of the most amusing and sardonic novels I have ever read!”—Omaha World
“As irreverent and picaresque as Tom Jones and always more dramatic… Flashman is a one-man demolition squad!”—Chicago Today
“Marvelously entertaining… A delight!”—Providence Journal
About the Author
George MacDonald Fraser was a bestselling historical novelist, journalist and screenwriter. He is perhaps most famous for his series of Flashman novels, featuring his antihero Harry Flashman. In addition to his novels, he wrote numerous screenplays, most notably The Three Musketeers and the James Bond film Octopussy. George MacDonald Fraser died in 2008 at the age of 82.
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This installment picks up where the first volume left off; Harry returns from his Afghan adventures, quite the conquering hero and the toast of London. Soon, however, the bloom is off the rose and further adventures await, this time among the nobility of the continent. Soon, Flash matches wits with one of the greatest statesmen of the 19th century, Otto von Bismarck, and changes the course of European history as a result.
As in the original Flashman novel, our Harry is revealed as the premier coward and opportunist of his era; faults which he quite willingly admits and even boasts of. This passage, relating to his beautiful, vacuous wife Elspeth gives a glimpse into the Flashman psyche:
"At that moment I was overcome again with that yearning affection for her that I sometimes felt, in spite of her infidelities; I can't explain it, beyond saying that she must have had some magical quality, something to do with the childlike thoughtful look she wore, and the pure, helpless stupidity in her eyes. It is very difficult not to like a lovely idiot."
Uproariously funny and entertaining, this sequel is every bit the equal of the original.
Royal Flash starts where the first volume (Flashman) ended, with the narrator resting on his laurels from his campaigns in Afghanistan. Of course, readers of the first volume are well aware that his heroics are essentially pure fiction, but the British public of 1842 is not onto him. For around 70 pages, Harry is relishing his status while antagonizing various historical figures, most particular, a young Bismarck. This will come back to haunt him years later, when he receives a mysterious summons to come to Germany.
Harry smells a trap, but the scent of money is stronger, so he goes, only to be forced into a scheme of Bismarck's. As it turns out, Flashman is a virtual twin for Prince Carl Gustaf, who is soon to marry a princess that will solidify certain political alliances that Bismarck wants. Unfortunately, Gustaf has taken ill with a sexually transmitted disease and the cure will take too long; the wedding would be threatened and with it, Bismark's plans. Enter Flashman, who will impersonate Gustaf temporarily. Harry suspects there's more to this than what he's been told, but he has little choice to go along with the plot.
I enjoyed the first book in this series, but I like this one even more. The book Flashman is a bit more episodic, while Royal Flash has more of a single plot, allowing a better narrative flow. A wonderful blend of history and satire, Royal Flash will continue to entertain those who found the first book a pleasure.
But whatever, this is a great reactionary romp through revolutionary 1848 Europe, and Flashman has his way with the Queen of Bavaria and bests Bismarck at his Realpolitikin' to boot.
Great politically-incorrect fun and a parody of The Prisoner of Zenda too. Just love the character and the liberties Fraser takes with history and his refusal to take himself, the character or the genre too seriously.
So glad he wrote a dozen more.
As usual with the Flashman books, there are patches of wonderful descriptive writing. For example: "We were rolling slowly up a long avenue of trees towards a huge, bleak house, half mansion, half castle; in the fading light, with the wintry sky behind it, it looked in silhouette like the setting for some gothic novel, all towers and spires and rugged stonework. There were some lights in some of the windows, and a great lantern shone yellow above the pointed archway of its main door, but they served only to exaggerate the ancient gloom of the place. Childe Flashy to the Dark Tower came, thinks I, and tried not to imagine what lay within." A fast, light, fun read.
I think many of us will live vicariously in Flashman's reluctant adventures, especially the erotic episodes. Being a 19th Century Anglophile, I enjoy the History, phrases and terms used then, as accurately described by Fraser. I am most impressed at his research for the background and settings used. For a while, I wasn't sure whether Flashman had been a real person.
Strongly suggest that the reader read the Flashman series in order, starting with the first one, Flashman: 1839-1842, to get the most out of the series. If you are really into it, read "Tom Brown's Schooldays" first.