Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sharpe's Escape

Sharpe's Escape
© 2004 Bernard Cornwell
357 pages

"Lieutenant Slingsby," the Colonel said, "tells me that you insulted him. That you invited him to duel. That you called him illegitimate. That you swore at him."
    Sharpe cast his mind back to the brief confrontation on the ridge's forward slope just after he had pulled the company out of the French panic. "I doubt I called him illegitimate, sir," he said. "I wouldn't use that sort of word. I probably called him a bastard."
p. 135,136.

1810: the Iberian Peninsula.  Britain's attempt to defeat the French in Spain has failed, and for the mment they are retreating into Portugal. To Wellington, the rereat is a strategtic withdrawal: as the British army seeks safe shelter behind concealed fortifications protecting Lisbon, they leave nothing but a scorched and barren wasteland, purpously destroying food stores as they go. The French, advancing further into enemy territory, are finding themselves in a desolate wilderness, contending with a hostile population who harry there every move. Soon they will see Wellington's secret battle-lines, and be forced to engage the British in ruinous battle or face a cold winter's occupation in a dead land where the only thing living are angry partisans.

 Alas, poor Richard Sharpe's position is not so secure.  Temporarily relieved of command to give an aristocratic lieutenant a chance to gain battlefield experience, Sharpe is assigned as quartermaster and finds himself locked in a cellar, trapped behind enemy lines as part of a running feud with two very nasty Portugese traitors. It's not enough that his long-time superior officer and friend seems to be throwing him under the bus, career-wise, but Sharpe can't seem to avoid getting into one tight fix after another. His and Harper's story is a havoc-filled run to safety that should mark the end of Wellington's retreat and the beginning of the campaigns that will take Sharpe into France and to ultimate victory.

Enjoyable as expected: next will be Sharpe's Fury

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