27 May 2008

Sharpe's Escape

Sharpe’s Escape Novel As Juicy As The TV Series
By Kristin Battestella
Having seen the BBC’s Sharpe television movies before I discovered the books by Bernard Cornwell, some of the written twists and turns have shocked me-and others not so much. 2004’s Sharpe’s Escape, however, has not had the privilege of being filmed for television. Although influenced by the films’ style and take on Sharpe, Escape is still an intelligent and historical must read.
Sharpe's Escape: Richard Sharpe & the Bussaco Campaign, 1810 (Richard Sharpe's Adventure Series #10)This time around, Richard Sharpe must protect displaced English governess Sarah Fry from the Portuguese swindler Ferragus while Wellington’s army allies with these same Portuguese to defend Bussaco. Sharpe of course, is yet again on the outs with his snotty superior officers.
In addition to the witty and battlefield smart Sharpe, Cornwell has developed television-introduced riflemen Harris and Perkins in Escape. Harper is not necessarily the sidekick here, more Sharpe’s equal as far as officers and enlisted men can be equal. His observant eye and strongman abilities are essential to Sharpe in this escapade; and of course, Patrick also gets some loving with the ladies here. At first I didn’t like the prim schoolteacher Sarah Fry. She’s meant to be uppity and snotty, but getting down and dirty with Richard has her singing a different tune.

I’m reading the Sharpe novels as I’m able to find them, since I’m too cheap to order them all online. I read Gold before Eagle, then Escape. In the years since he began Sharpe, Cornwell has had much success, both with this series and others. This has allowed him more leeway in the writing of Sharpe. I don’t much care for the Ferragus’ point of view here. He’s creepy, rapacious, yadda, yadda. Of course we need his perspective to know the timeline of events away from Sharpe, but honestly I could careless. I enjoy the tighter earlier novels that are exclusively about Sharpe and his struggles with himself, the enemy, and his superiors. Cornwell has also indulged himself in his action and battle scenes. Escape is divided into three parts, and the novel is double the size of its chronological predecessor, Sharpe’s Gold, which was written in 1981. Escape is 350 pages. By contrast, the twenty first book Sharpe’s Fury was published in 2006 and is 400 pages long.

These are relatively small quibbles in the context of Escape. Although, the story is also a bit preposterous; Richard’s escape through a loaded sewer naked with a woman clinging to him. It’s humorous, yet played very genuine. Even Sharpe has to laugh at the absurdity of his situations. Escape is a little full of itself, and this is in the spirit of the television series, not the original novels. Am I complaining? No.
Some fans of the telefilms may not consider Sharpe’s Escape simply because it is a book not turned into a movie-spirit of the films rather than the books aside. I would urge those to reconsider. It’s a shame the series has already moved on from this point, and it would take much contriving to ever film Escape. Nevertheless, the book is a fine read that should not missed.

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