The last time England withdrew in a big way from the continent of Europe – there was a Civil War!
What am I talking about? Well England’s defeat in the Hundred Year’s War lead pretty much directly to the Wars of Roses. With the UK now split almost evenly on the issue is there a danger of strong divisions appearing again in our society? There are strong emotions on both sides–anger at the result of the referendum and fear of uncertainty over what will happen next? These are dangerous times I feel – we’ve had for the first time popular leaders in the UK stirring up tensions. What’s next? It feels like we’ve taken a massive step back in terms of tolerance and a rational approach to politics and society.
Looking at a map of the referendum results – you can see how further resentment and division will bubble along in the future – the richest city in the UK, London, voted overwhelmingly to leave – but will now suffer because of the economic downturn. Whereas Scotland and even Northern Ireland may leave the union together over this. This is a new civil war – fought through the media, ballot box and via words, rather than with swords and arrows – but it feels like a war nevertheless.
Published August 3rd 2004 by Signet (first published January 1st 1981)
0451212576 (ISBN13: 9780451212573)
Although this is the eighth book in the series of Sharpe book – going in chronological order, Sharpe’s Eagle has the distinction of being Bernard Cornwell’s first Sharpe book. He went back and filled in much of the history of Richard Sharpe at a later date – his time in India for instance which is referred to in this book.
This book is also of note as it’s the only place where Sharpe’s hair is described as being black – Cornwell didn’t mention his hair colour again in other books in the series, which is a good thing given Sean Bean is blond!
Well enough of the anecdotes about the book. What’s it about and is it any good? The story covers the Talavera campaign, during which the British army under Wellington entered Spain with the intention of capturing Madrid supported by the Spanish army. The story begins in Portugal with Sharpe’s company of riflemen being attached to a new regiment, the fictional South Essex commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Sir Henry Simmerson. The Colonel is proud and incompetent and he and one of his officers, Lieutenant Christian Gibbons are the main villains of the story. Gibbons is accompanied by a beautiful Portuguese noblewoman, Josefina Lacosta. The South Essex has the job of seizing a bridge on the line of march of the British army with the cooperation of a Spanish regiment. Due to the incompetence of both the Spanish and Simmerson the regiment is nearly destroyed by French dragoons and cannon. But Sharpe disobeys orders and manages to save most of the regiment from destruction. Not before the South Essex loses its King’s Colour. One of Sharpe’s friends – an officer of the South Essex dies, and Sharpe tells the dying man that he will capture a French regimental Eagle in order to take revenge for the loss of the King’s Colour. Thus the stage is set for the rest of the book.
The British army makes its way under Wellington to Talavera. Most of the rest of the action is the march to the city and the battle itself. There is a good deal of conflict between Sharpe, Simmerson and Gibbon – and with Gibbon Josefina is the main subject of that conflict – the love interest for the book!
I won’t say anything more about the story in case readers of this post haven’t read it.
So what did I think of it? I really enjoyed it. I’ve read other Sharpe books before and other novels by Cornwell, so I was familiar with the style and content of his work – and it didn’t disappoint. There’s plenty of action to keep you turning the pages, but although he’s sometimes accused of being a bit lightweight on history, I found that there was plenty of historical background and content in the book to keep me interested. The characters are well defined too – although some are a bit stereotyped in a way – you can see that they fulfil a function in the story for instance – such as Major Hogan who’s there as a kindly older father figure who tries to help Sharpe. But the characters work well and Cornwell has a knack of bringing them to life and making you believe in them.
Verdict? Heartily recommended!
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I’m really excited to tell you about a new short story that I have just published as an eBook on Kindle.
The Dragon of Borvoli is all about a young boy who’s the only inhabitant of his village to fight the ‘dragon’ that has been terrorising his village. The story is set in a Dark Ages world – probably something similar to Cornwall – St Michael’s Mount certainly features for instance, but the setting isn’t very specific. What I was going for was more the atmosphere of the Dark Ages where belief in monsters – think Beowulf – was still strong.
Here’s the blurb for the book:
It takes a lot of bravery to fight a dragon. So imagine how brave the nine year old Boult is when he takes his father’s sword and enters the barrow near his home where tales say the dragon lives—the dragon that has been terrorising their village.
Yet not all is as it seems in this atmospheric historical fantasy short story. Boult meets Gustinus, a Christian priest, who promises to help him in his quest to slay the dragon. But Boult discovers that men can be worse monsters than creatures of legend.
Its currently available for just £0.99/$0.99 or 0.99 Euros from Amazon: