Okay, I’ll admit that this one isn’t for everyone. George McDonald Fraser’s Victorian character, Flashman, that he took from ‘Tom Browns schooldays’ is a coward, a scoundrel, and a complete all round rotter. Flashman manages to find himself involved in all the leading events of the nineteenth century, despite spending most of his time trying to run from trouble, and somehow always manages to come out smelling of roses, and being decorated with plaudits and medals. The detailed historical research that went into these novels are also interspersed with George McDonalds Fraser’s quick wit, and they form a fun ride through some fascinating periods of history.
The reason it is a controversial choice, is that even the most cynical hearted of readers couldn’t possibly condone some of Flashman’s behaviour, but it is key to these novels. The novels raise an interesting point in the depiction of certain characters in Historical novels. I know from my own experience of writing that it is impossible to create a believable character in the past if we try and impose our own modern values and morals to them. For example, a novel set in Ancient Rome, creating a main character who is anti-slavery, non-discriminating of other cultures, and believes that all are born equal, would be completely unbelievable and the reader would reject it. The same could be said of a nineteenth century Victorian imperialist like Flashman – how else would you depict him?
Anyway, leaving aside the philosophical pros and cons of his writing, his novels are really good fun, and if you can put up with the non-political correct nature of them, are a fascinating read. My favourite is ‘Flashman at the Charge’, and depicts the events of Crimean war and the charge of the light brigade. You can buy a copy on Amazon here.