A Richard Sharpe short story, featuring scenes of action and adventure at Christmas.
‘You’ll like Irati,’ Colonel Hogan said. ‘It’s a nothing place, Richard. Hovels and misery, that’s all it is and all it ever will be, but that’s where you’re going for Christmas.’
Sharpe was sent to Irati because maybe the French were going there. The garrison planned to march at Christmas in the hope that their enemies would be too bloated with beef and wine to fight, but Hogan had got wind of their plans and was now setting his snares on the only two routes that the escaping French could use. One, the eastern road, was by far the easier route, for it entered France through a low pass, and Hogan guessed it was that route that the French would choose. But there was a second road, a tight, hard, steep road, and that had to be blocked as well and so the Prince of Wales’s Own Volunteers, Sharpe’s regiment, would climb into the hills and spend their Christmas at a place of hovels and misery called Irati.
Soldier, hero, rogue – Sharpe is the man you always want on your side. Born in poverty, he joined the army to escape jail and climbed the ranks by sheer brutal courage. He knows no other family than the regiment of the 95th Rifles whose green jacket he proudly wears.
‘Sharpe and his creator are national treasures.' Sunday Telegraph
'Bernard Cornwell is a literary miracle. Year after year, hail, rain, snow, war and political upheavals fail to prevent him from producing the most entertaining and readable historical novels of his generation.' Daily Mail
'Cornwell's narration is quite masterly and supremely well-researched.' Observer
‘The best battle scenes of any writer I’ve ever read, past or present. Cornwell really makes history come alive.’ George R.R. Martin
About the author
Bernard Cornwell was born in London, raised in Essex, and now lives mainly in the USA with his wife. In addition to the hugely successful Sharpe novels, Bernard Cornwell is the author of the Starbuck Chronicles, the Warlord trilogy, the Grail Quest series, the Alfred series and standalone battle books Azincourt and The Fort.
Best-known for 2003's The Bride Stripped Bare (originally published anonymously), Gemmell revisits a woman's sexual awakening in her tender though occasionally overwrought latest. The novel follows an unnamed, middle-aged, Australian wife and mother of three living in England, whose loving but sexless marriage drives her to reflect on her passionate affair with an older man when she was a teenager. Compellingly written in the second person, the book comprises the protagonist's own writings to herself as she struggles to make sense of the past. Aided in her reminiscences by a progressive Victorian book for women given to her and annotated by her lover, Tol, years ago the narrator recounts their first chance meeting, when, as a teen desperate to escape her icy stepmother, she discovers a run-down manse wherein Tol is busy renovating and writing. Despite his protestations that she stay away, the young narrator persists, and soon a romance blossoms. But suddenly after declaring his love Tol disappears, and she's been wondering what happened ever since. Though Gemmell's beautiful prose sometimes lapses into melodrama, her gift for storytelling makes this a rewarding read.
Just about does the trick
The good thing about Bernard Cornwell is his attention to detail. Without his detail, this short story is a little flat and sweet. Not the kind of adventure you want if you are a Sharpe reader. There is no derring do from our hero, no risk etc. just a little Christmas tale with a lovely ending.
The next story might be 'Sharpe and the Easter Bunny'?