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February 19, 2010

Red Coat

Bernard Cornwell - ISBN - 9780060512774

Deftly and elegantly Cornwell draws superb word pictures to explain attitudes of the British officers, the aristocratic architecture of command, and entertainment of and by the privileged at the time of the Revolutionary War. Equally evocatively he describes the signs, sounds and smells of battle; the tactics, turmoil, wounds, destruction, destitution, and death. He is clearly the master of the historic novel, especially so for the history of battle. He develops wonderful characters to provoke understanding of his plot(s).

The book achieves its goal in explaining the turning points of the Revolution: the abandonment of Boston, the British occupation of Philadelphia--as he describes its squalor--and its eventual abandonment after the first important British defeat at Saratoga.

He carefully explores the underlying sympathies of patriots and loyalists, and the apposition of love, hate, mercy, compassion, villainy and deceit, along with vivid descriptions of life and times as he speaks with clarity of the rigors of life in the 18th century. It is a greatly informative tract and a delightful read. With unparalleled eloquence he explains the now ancient and foreign idea of liberty and freedom. Sam, the "Redcoat," was a British soldier, a skilled caretaker of cavalry horses, who was torn over whether or not to desert. He had decided, but was hesitant after his American sweetheart decided to return to a former consort.

I pray that here in Obamaland, very soon, a majority will awaken to Cornwell's stirring thoughts, given voice by a patriot character in his novel as she encourages the Redcoat: "Liberty isn't heaven, Sam, it isn't a blessed reward. People will still die in sorrow and poverty when they have liberty. It's simply, only, the freedom to choose your own life, and no one promises you success. . . . I hate having some fat arrogant man in London telling me what I can or can't do. I'd rather the fat arrogant man was in Philadelphia, because at least then I could throw something at him. We don't need London any more. We're grown up. We want liberty. You grew up, Sam, and you didn't want your parents telling you what to do all the time. You wanted liberty, and you got it. You joined the army [and now you're here] . . . there's a river out there, and on its other side is liberty. All you have to do is cross the water. . . . There's a whole new world. There are more hills and valleys than you could dream of, and they're just waiting for the touch of a man's plough. There are rivers wider than your Thames and they still don't even have names. There are horses waiting to be bred, and there's grass to feed them. There's everything a man could want here, Sam, and if we win this fight, there'll even be liberty for everyone [to use or misuse, it is a citizen's choice.]"

As well he explores French rationale for entering the war in all of its complexity, dissects Clinton's initial command as he speaks of arrogance, pride, honor and dishonor, and as usual brings the plot to a roaring, exciting conclusion.

As with everything this man writes, I recommend it highly. No living writer is better than Bernard Cornwell! Nor are most of the dead ones.

Posted by Curmudgeon at February 19, 2010 11:30 AM