This book is fucking awesome and I can’t believe I hadn’t read it before. It’s the first of eleven in a series by George MacDonald Fraser.
Harry Paget Flashman is a fictional English soldier, an immoral and cowardly one- who somehow becomes a national hero. This story follows him into India and Afghanistan where he learns languages through wenches, sucks up to higher ranking officers, and shrinks from any sort of honorable duty. Flashman’s narration is so snappy and hilariously immoral, it’s impossible to truly hate him. Personally, I smirked whenever he was showered with unearned accolades (though no more than I did when he was being tortured over a snake pit, opposite a dwarf…). What a horrible and wonderful cad.
I was highly impressed with all the (roughly) accurate names and places Fraser snuck in. In my ignorance of the British empire, I was completely unfamiliar with any of the major players in the first Afghan war. It was a joy to have these figures introduced with such snide humor. Flashman is the most entertaining work of historical fiction I’ve ever read!