Flashman and the Dragon (Magill Book Reviews)
This is the eighth volume of the memoirs of Sir Harry Flashman, V.C., military hero and “self-confessed coward, libertine, and scoundrel.”
It is 1860, and, after seeing service in such diverse places as the Crimea, India, and the American frontier, Harry now appears in China. In Hong Kong, en route home to England, he decides to help a missionary by accompanying a cargo of drugs up the Pearl River for sale in Canton. His troubles begin when he discovers that the cargo is not opium but guns, destined for the insurgents in the Taiping Rebellion. Captured by the rebels, he finds himself in the midst of the plotting of the fanatics.
After a series of adventures with the rebels, he is sent as an emissary to the British, which in turn leads to intelligence work for Lord Elgin and his Peking Expedition. He is captured and tortured by the decadent Manchu imperialists, becomes the plaything of the future empress, and is present for the fall of Peking and the destruction of the Summer Palace.
Sir Harry--Flashy to his friends--is one of the most delightful cads imaginable. Full of charm and dash, he falls into the most improbable situations at breakneck speed but always manages to escape with his reputation intact or even enhanced.
The whole is wrapped up in a fine parody of scholarly style, complete with appendices and footnotes. Fraser bases his work on solid historical research and adds wit and cynicism through Flashy’s...
(The entire section is 286 words.)
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Flashman and the Dragon (Magill's Literary Annual 1987)
George MacDonald Fraser took the central character of his sequence “The Flashman Papers” (of which this is the eighth volume) from the classic Victorian novel Tom Brown’s Schooldays (1857) by Thomas Hughes. In that earlier work Hughes set up an elementary contrast between hero and villain. On the one hand there was the plucky, mischievous, cricket-playing, chapel-attending Tom Brown (in several ways rather a close parallel to Tom Sawyer); on the other the cowardly, bullying Flashman, eventually dismissed in disgrace from Rugby School for drunkenness. The years, however, have left Hughes’s ideas of virtue unfashionable and even mildly ridiculous; Tom Brown’s piety goes oddly with his aggressiveness, while his totally asexual behavior has become unbelievable. It was then perhaps an obvious notion—though like all such notions, brilliantly successful once conceived—for Fraser to seize Hughes’s opposition and invert it, taking Flashman beyond his expulsion from Rugby and making him, still as cowardly and cynical as ever, a great Victorian hero: at the time of this story, Colonel Sir Harry Flashman, no less, knighted totally undeservedly for service to the Empire and awarded the Victoria Cross even less deservedly for personal courage. Where Hughes suggested that the British Empire ran on “muscular Christianity,” Fraser suggested that its real constituents (at any rate in his hero) were unscrupulousness, superior force, and an undeviating...
(The entire section is 1997 words.)
Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1987)
Booklist. LXXXII, March 1, 1986, p. 913.
Kirkus Reviews. LIV, February 1, 1986, p. 146.
Library Journal. CXI, April 15, 1986, p. 94.
The New Republic. CXCV, August 11, 1986, p. 38.
New Statesman. CX, October 25, 1985, p. 31.
The New York Times Book Review. XCI, March 4, 1986, p. 19.
Newsweek. CVII, May 5, 1986, p. 76.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXIX, March 7, 1986, p. 86.
Time. CXXVII, June 2, 1986, p. 76.
Times Literary Supplement. October 11, 1985, p. 1125.
Washington Post Book World. XVI, May 4, 1986, p. 1.
(The entire section is 59 words.)