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Cornwell once met O'Brian, whose work he greatly admires. ''He criticized me," Cornwell recalls. ''He once wrote, 'Cornwell and [Horatio Hornblower creator C.S.] Forester -- too much plot, not enough lifestyle.' He was fascinated by lifestyle and he was very good at it." Cornwell put Sharpe onboard a Royal Navy vessel in his 2000 novel ''Sharpe's Trafalgar" and matched O'Brian's penchant for detail topgallant sail for topgallant sail, with a stem-winding plot thrown in.

    -PROFILE: Anonymous: Bernard Cornwell may be a prolific, best-selling author, but he's still trying to make a name for himself here (Alex Beam, December 23, 2004, The Boston Globe)


Perhaps we might say, intending it as no disservice, that, as C.S. Forester is to Patrick O'Brian, so too is Bernard Cornwell to Allan Mallinson. I'd read a bunch of the Sharpe adventures years ago, but not picked one up in awhile when I noticed that Netflix had the fine TV-films available, starring Sean Bean as our hero. The first entry, Sharpe's Rifles was so much fun I had to go back and read the book and it's every bit as good as I remembered it. The series tells the story of a Napoleonic era British soldier, Richard Sharpe, promoted to officer from the ranks, and his struggles with "gentlemanly" fellow officers and skeptical subordinates. Within his Rifle Company he wins over the men by gaining the trust and friendship of the brutal Patrick Harper, who he in turn promotes to Sergeant. Here they fight in Spain with the partisans against the French, and their particular mission comes to be flying an ancient battle ganfalon -- the banner of Santiago Matamoros (St. James the Moor slayer) -- over French-held the town of Santiago de Compostela, in order to provide the sort of miracle that will summon the Spanish people to rise up against Bonaparte.

One scene in the film was especially appealing and I reread the book specifically to see if Mr. Cornwell had written it as forcefully. Sharpe's Spanish ally is Don Blas Vivar and they are opposed by the Don's brother, the Count of Mouromorto. When the brothers duel in the television version they exchange words that make it quite clear that vivar represents all the tradition and religiosity of Catholic Spain while his brother represents the cold reason of Enlightenment France. The contrast is somewhat less forthright in the book, but:
A Spanish Sergeant held the great banner that had been hung from a cross-staff on a pole. He waved it so that the silk made a serpentine challenge in the dusk.

The Count of Mouromorto saw the challenge and despised it. That streamer of silk was everything he hated in Spain; it stood for the old ways, for the domination of church over ideas, for the tyranny of a God he had rejected...
A nice Burkean touch that, the godless French forces against the Christian Brits and Spaniards. And in the book the "miraculous" nature of the mission is played to the hilt. You can't go wrong with book or movie and ought to enjoy both.


(Reviewed:)

Grade: (A)

  

Websites:

See also:

Bernard Cornwell (2 books reviewed)
War
Bernard Cornwell Links:

    -AUTHOR SITE: Bernard Cornwell: Britain's Storyteller -INFO: Bernard Cornwell (Wikipedia)
    -PROFILE: Bernard Cornwell (Bookreporter)
    -FAN SITE: The Sharpe Appreciation Society
    -FAN SITE: Sharpe's Books
    -PROFILE: Anonymous: Bernard Cornwell may be a prolific, best-selling author, but he's still trying to make a name for himself here (Alex Beam, December 23, 2004, The Boston Globe)
Cornwell once met O'Brian, whose work he greatly admires. 'He criticized me," Cornwell recalls. 'He once wrote, 'Cornwell and [Horatio Hornblower creator C.S.] Forester -- too much plot, not enough lifestyle.' He was fascinated by lifestyle and he was very good at it." Cornwell put Sharpe onboard a Royal Navy vessel in his 2000 novel 'Sharpe's Trafalgar" and matched O'Brian's penchant for detail topgallant sail for topgallant sail, with a stem-winding plot thrown in.

    -INTERVIEW: Desert Island Discs with Bernard Cornwell (BBC4)
    -INTERVIEW: Chatham Author Bernard Cornwell (Interview by Christopher Seufert, My Chatham)
    -INTERVIEW: BERNARD CORNWELL author of Sharpe's Prey (January Magazine, July 2001)
    -INTERVIEW: Life After Sharpe: Bernard Cornwell talks to Richard Lee about laziness and hitting barn doors. (Historical Novel Society)
    -INTERVIEW: Bernard Cornwell Q&A (Bean Zine, 01 September 1997)
    -INTERVIEW: The following is an edited version of an online chat with Bernard Cornwell (community.news.com.au, 1st December 1999)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Bernard Cornwell's King Alfred in the twenty-first century: Fictional portraits of the king who burned the cakes from the nineteenth century to the present day (Joanne Parker , Times Literary Supplement)
    -REVIEW: of STONEHENGE 2000 B.C. By Bernard Cornwell (Michael Porter, NY Times Book Review)

FILM:
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Bernard Cornwell (IMDB.com)
    -INFO: Sharpe's Rifles (1993) (IMDB.com)
    -Sharpe the Series
    -LYRICS: Over the Hills and Far Away

Book-related and General Links:

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