The Flashman Papers, Book 1 is the first book in a series of twelve comprising the memoirs of a fictional Brit making his way through actual historical events beginning in the early-mid 19th century.
Harry Flashman is a coward and womanizing misogynist of epic proportion who also has outrageously good luck that not only saves his skin from numerous seemingly inescapable pinches, but also allows him to reap tidal waves of unwarranted praise and adoration.
Right from the start, while looking at a picture of his younger self, Flashman describes his outward appearance as tall, masterful, and roughly handsome, and then goes on to explain that the picture “is the portrait of a scoundrel, a liar, a cheat, a thief, a coward – and, oh yes, a toady.”
Everything I love in a main character.
After hearing this confession -- without giving too much away -- we quickly see evidence as he invokes his deceased mother’s name in trying to escape expulsion from prep school - “‘But sir,’ I said, still blubbering. ‘it will break my mother’s heart!’” – and upon returning home makes sleeping with his father’s new ladyfriend his top priority.
This sets the tone for the book, and I imagine the whole series. But before we condemn Flashy as wholeheartedly evil and talentless, we also discover that he is a skilled horseman and lancer, and has a knack for picking up foreign tongues. Plus, he occasionally displays the ability to feel tenderness towards the fairer sex. Albeit this is very very occasionally.
I absolutely loved reading about his exploits with women (although some of his behavior goes well beyond the line), his narrow escapes, and watching him bask in the glow of utterly undeserved adulation.
Further, Fraser weaves together a great narrative, has an uncanny ability to cut to the heart of a character in an eloquently written line or two, and fills the book with outstanding and quite often hilarious turns of phrase.
And if my understanding is correct, you get a little British history lesson along the way.
I’m already popping wood for the next book in the series and I highly recommend this book to people who enjoy stories about villainous yet hilarious douchebags. 5 pearls!