Captain Thomas Flashman was a self-confessed coward. He unwittingly found himself fighting the upstart Americans alongside of Iroquois warriors on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes during the war of 1812—Madison’s War. Although cowardly, Flashman was cunning and managed to present himself in a good light to superior officers. This has the unfortunate effect of keeping him on the front lines. While trying to prevent an enraged warrior from cleaving his skull with a tomahawk, he accidentally converts the savage Indian into a faithful friend who watches his back and spares him from numerous life threatening encounters. Simultaneously the tide of the war in America turned against the British and the European conflict with France suddenly ended. This happy news meant that Continental troops would soon relieve the beleaguered British forces in Canada. Flashman saw a route home to England. But his hopes were cruelly dashed and he returned to the solace of the Mennonite girl who he rescued from an abusive husband more than twice her age.
Flashman and Madison’s War is an easygoing book that I originally branded as slow, but I persevered and soon fell into the story’s pace. The character Flashman is an engaging creation who will set his own hook in reader’s interest. His unabashed self-assessment that he is a cowardly lying opportunist who wants nothing more than to stay alive and enjoy living to the fullest, quickly endears him to the reader. Robert Brightwell has retold an obscure part of an obscure war from a British point of view with remarkable accuracy and detail through the eyes of a fictional character with real charm. This is the fifth installment in a series of Flashman’s memoirs. It stands alone but some may prefer to start at the beginning.