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Sharpe's Trafalgar (2012)

Sharpe's Trafalgar (2012)
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4.01 of 5 Votes: 2
ISBN
0061098620 (ISBN13: 9780061098628)
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English
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harper paperbacks
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Sharpe's Trafalgar (2012)
Sharpe's Trafalgar (2012)

About book: First read: 2 Sept 2008. Love the battle, tactics, camaraderie, and the history. Fourth in the Richard Sharpe series set in 1805 and revolving around a jumped-up ensign who thinks he's better than he is. My Take I do so love Richard Sharpe! Okay, okay, so I fell in love with Sean Bean in the television series first, but it only turned me on to Cornwell's series! I swear! The series is an incredible exploration of early 19th century English culture with its mores, style, and class system particularly an inside peek into its military culture. And as much as I enjoy the television series, I adore the books much more. Seeing the military and the battles through the eyes of Richard Sharpe brings history to life and Cornwell does an incredible job of bringing the fear, terror, and agony of battle deep into the reader's psyche.It's not just a recitation of battles but an in-depth view of life and war and how it affects one man. His dreams, his desires to rise up from his beginnings. His brutality balanced by his passion to succeed and his care for those less able to care for themselves—no matter their class.Part of the attraction is Cornwell including secondary characters who recognize Sharpe's abilities and ignore his station. I always love it when the underdog wins!I can hardly wait to dive into Sharpe's Prey! The Story With his transfer to the 95th Rifles in place, Sharpe must get himself home to England in the course of which he aids Captain Joel Hunt of the Pucelle, a third rate ship of French design with 74 guns, and meeting Lady Grace Hale.Life continues to amuse when one of Sharpe's fellow passengers is actually Anthony Pohlmann, a deserter and enemy whom Sharpe allows his imposture. In gratitude, and I suspect humor, Pohlmann takes every opportunity to invite Sharpe to dine at the captain's table. Thanks to the impressions Sharpe has made on Lady Grace and her husband's general character, the two are soon lovers with its own set of complications when Braithwaite reveals his awareness to Sharpe. Never a subtle man, Sharpe soon "encourages" Braithwaite's silence although it doesn't have quite the effect Sharpe had intended.One positive note is Lady Grace's intelligence as she realizes the significance of secret meetings between the captain and several of the ship's other passengers so it's not a total surprise when the Calliope is suddenly captured. On the other hand, the French surprise at its recapture is complete and due to Mr. Sharpe...snicker…Rescued by the Pucelle, Sharpe soon learns that his affair has the support of the entire ship. A support that proves its value immediately after Trafalgar. However, it's not the only value for Sharpe on this voyage for Captain Hunt has a way of leading men that appeals to Sharpe as he absorbs the examples Hunt sets and takes advantage of being a temporary Marine on board ship. The Characters Richard Sharpe was an orphan who escaped hanging by enlisting in the Army where he was promptly posted off to India and, now, six years later, he's returning to England at the invitation of the 95th Rifles, a new company being formed. Captain Joel Hunt is an engaging, impetuous young captain in the English Navy grateful for Sharpe's aid with Nana Rao's attempted fraud. His primary mission is to hunt the French ship, Revenant and its captain, Louis Montmorin.Voyage from India to the Calliope's recapture:Lord William Hale, a member of the East India Company's Board of Control; his wife, Lady Grace, and Malachai Braithwaite, his lordship's bum-sucking secretary, will be Sharpe's companions aboard Peculier Cromwell's ship, Calliope. Other shipboard companions include Baron and Baroness von Dornberg, a.k.a., Anthony Pohlmann, a deserter from the Hanoverian army who had commanded the losing side at Assaye; Major Dalton, retiring from the 96th; Mr. and Mrs. Fairley returning to India having made their fortune; and a barrister.The significant members of the ship's crew include: Clouter, a runaway slave from St. Helena; second Lieutenant Peel with the beautiful voice; Midshipman Harry Collier; Cowper, the ship's purser; Captain Llewellyn who is in charge of the ship's Marines; Sgt. Armstrong and Simmons are some of the Marines; first Lt. Haskell who believes the captain spoils his men; and, John Hopper, the bosun of the captain's gig who was one of those backing his Captain at Nana Rao's.Trafalgar:Lord Horatio Nelson commands the British fleet. Monsieur Michel Vaillard is a French spy whose capture has become Captain Hunt's new mission. The Cover The cover has an historical validity with its clean chase of one sailing warship after another against an orange-streaked sky. The title makes me laugh with it's possession of Trafalgar—for it is indeed Sharpe's Trafalgar and not the strictly historical one!

This was the first of the Sharpe books that I've read. I picked it up largely because of the nautical theme, being fond of what I've seen of the Sharpe TV movies, though not overly enamoured.I enjoyed it, for the most part. It's like an extended Boy's Own adventure, set on a ship full of men being manly bastards and the French being perfidious. The plotline wasn't much to write home about, frankly; apart from the opening sequence, and the climactic battle of Trafalgar, I thought the whole thing dragged rather a little, and too much attention was paid to the romance. The attraction between Sharpe and Lady Grace felt much too cliched, too painted by numbers, for me to ever be interested in it. Aristocratic lady falling for a hot bit of rough has been done so many times that there needed to be something more to the thing to make me warm to the pairing; as it was, I couldn't even believe it to be plausible.Everything picked up in the last third of the book, once the great battle actually began, but everything before that really felt like an extended contrivance to get Sharpe to be there.Most of the period details felt right, which is always a huge, huge plus for me; the stink and piss and sweat of six hundred odd men crammed onto a third-rate was well conveyed, and any lack of greater detail about the actual mechanics of sailing the thing can be more than adequately explained by the fact that Sharpe is a soldier, not a sailor. It never felt as true to me as in the Aubrey-Maturin books, though, or even the Hornblower ones.Sharpe mostly came across as a stock hero type, someone who has pulled himself up from the gutter by his bootstraps and is going to show those aristocrats just how much hell a lad from Yorkshire can give them. Or summat. The only times he really came alive for me was when he murdered Braithwaite in cold blood - not something a hero usually does, and different enough to really catch my attention - and in the final portion of the book where he finally goes into battle as part of the Pucelle's boarding party.He was ashamed when he remembered the joy of it, but there was a joy there. It was the happiness of being released to the slaughter, of having every bond of civilization removed. It was also what Richard Sharpe was good at. It was why he wore an officer's sash instead of a private's belt, because in almost every battle the moment came when the disciplined ranks dissolved and a man simply had to claw and scratch and kill like a beast.That was the part where his character first grabbed my attention, first spoke to me and really made me believe that this was part of the life story of someone who had lived through the Napoleonic Wars. Unfortunately, there were only about thirty pages or so left in the book by this stage.If you do pick it up, skip straight to the last eighty pages or so; I'd recommend Patrick O' Brian over Cornwell any day, though
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Reviews
Graham
Following on from the excellent Indian trilogy, Sharpe’s fourth adventure is as thrilling and exciting as they come. Cornwell combines his love for the early 19th century period with his love for ships and seafaring, and the result is a book packed with suspense, intrigue and danger. Sharpe is certainly out of his element at sea, but he fits in nicely with the plot, and Cornwell’s wrangling allows him to partake in the great British victory at Trafalgar – he even gets to meet Nelson before the general dies! Thus the book is educational as well as entertaining, and I couldn’t think of a better way to learn about the war than this.Much of the book is taken up with conspiracy and power struggles onboard a ship, where Sharpe meets some old friends and enemies. There are plenty of new characters too, including Captain Chase, a friendly ally, and Lord William Hale, another unlikable toff. However, for me, the best part of the book is the romance, which really seems true to life and is heartbreaking in places – definitely the best romance yet. Sharpe himself is as ruthless as ever, and a cold-blooded killer too this time around, but that doesn’t make him any the less likable. Much of the action is confined to a major sea battle, which makes for a superb ending to what is another outstanding book.
John Caviglia
As I recently read Pérez Reverte’s Cabo Trafalgar—then, to check on the historicity of Reverte’s presentation of the battle from the Spanish point of view, delved intoThe Trafalgar Companion: The Complete Guide to History's Most Famous Sea Battle and the Life of Admiral Lord Nelson—this is the first of the Sharpe's based on a battle I know something about … which leads to a suite of observations.Considering the two novels as vehicles for presenting history, Pérez Reverte gets the definite nod, since his entire text is devoted to a perspective on the battle. In contrast, Cornwall (and he much as says so in his notes) conceives his novel as a “vehicle” transporting Sharpe from his Indian military past to his future in the British army fighting in Europe. And as long as Sharpe’s on a ship around the time of Trafalgar, can we make it a British ship of the line…? Can we then involve it in a tantalizing chase of a French ship of the line which carries a British traitor who has stolen the jewels Sharpe took from the body of the rajah he slew…? And can we then have this ship of the line end up near Gibraltar at exactly the right time...? Cornwall shamelessly succumbs to temptation and has his stalwart hero help save that famous day at sea—though the greater part of the first of the novel is devoted to assorted sub plots involving various villains, including a Frenchman disguised as a lackey carrying an all-important dispatch. And of course there is the latest iteration of The Woman per Volume, in this case an icy British beauty unhappy in her marriage to a cad (Will she melt to the scarred charms of you-know-who?). In sum, Reverte is better history, while Cornwall is here up to more than his usual … well … corn … in a novel that is a congeries (the Indian origin of the word wonderfully apt) of coincidences.Concerning the interpretation of this battle from the point of view of victor and defeated, it is interesting that Reverte places much blame on the French commander of the Spanish/French fleet, Villeneuve, while Cornwall stresses Nelson’s tactics and the superiority of British gunners. Both commend their respective navies for extraordinary valor in the face of carnage. Of the four Sharpe’s so far, this seems to me the weakest … and yet still a great read. God love Selby library, in which the next one awaits me!
Gerald Matzke
This was a rather unusual story in the Richard Sharpe series in that it takes place almost completely at sea. Sharpe is generally fighting battles on land but in this story he is on his way home to England after spending an extended time fighting in India. What should have been a relaxing several months at sea turned into a series of encounters that kept the story exciting and made the reader keep turning pages to see what was going to happen next. One aspect of this book that was confusing for me was all of the nautical jargon that Bernard Cornwell employed in describing life on the open waters. You could tell that Cornwell is an avid sailor but for a lubber like me, most of his vivid descriptions were lost. Nevertheless it was an enjoyable book.
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