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Sharpe's Waterloo June 1815 The Duke of Wellington the Prince of Orange and Napoleon will meet on the battlefieldand decide the fate of EuropeWith the emperor Napoleon at its head and enormous French army is marching toward Brussels The British and their allies are also converging on Brussels in preparation for a grand society ball And it is up to Richard Sharpe to convince the Prince of Orange the inexperienced commander of Wellington's Dutch troops to act before it is too late But Sharpe's warning cannot stop the tide of battle and the British suffer heavy losses on the road to Waterloo Wellington has few reserves of men and ammunition; the Prussian army has not arrived and the French advance wields tremendous firepower and determinaiton Victory seems impossible


About the Author: Bernard Cornwell

Cornwell was born in London in 1944 His father was a Canadian airman and his mother who was English a member of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force He was adopted and brought up in Essex by the Wiggins family who were members of the Peculiar People a strict Protestant sect who banned frivolity of all kinds and even medicine After he left them he changed his name to his birth mother's maiden n



10 thoughts on “Sharpe's Waterloo

  1. Michael Michael says:

    I appreciated this as a window on the famous 1815 battle with Sharpe a Zellig like figure at key turning points However I missed Sharpe’s personal story as the main focus of the narrative rather than getting a sense of him being used as a tool to illustrate historical events If you have read any of the Sharpe series on the British army during the Napoleanic Wars you will want to read this out for a sense of completion with this being the penultimate volume He still thinks of himself as a rifleman but his capacity to lead men leads him to advance to become a competent officer In the brief peace he has taken up the life of a country farmer with a French woman in Normandy and is now a father leaving his wife back in England to suander his modest estate and pursue her own lovers As the book opens his need for money has led him to assume a post as a brevet colonel in the Dutch forces led by of the young inexperienced Prince of Orange Along with their allies in the so called Seventh Coalition the Prussians and Wellington’s international army are defending Dutch Belgium against a likely incursion by Bonaparte In the three months since escaping Elba he has won over the French army and state and Sharpe is a witness of the advance dragoon scouts leading the invasion by an army of 125000 His skills in combat by gun and sword are rusty but he still has the right stuff in mano a mano actionSharpe has been dreading the fulfillment of orders from the Prince to show up at a grand ball in Brussells so it’s perfect for him to show up all grotty and bloody The plan of Napolean to divide the forces of Wellington and the Prussians is close to being completed and the warnings Sharpe tried to send did not reach the allied command Rallying to the defense of a key crossroads becomes an emergency objective for the allies Sharpe’s old sergeant the Irishman Harper is now a bar owner and dealer of stolen horses but chooses to join him on location despite lack of a commission There they learn what a dangerous pompous idiot the Prince is ordering his men to deploy in lines for musketry attacks and leaving them vulnerable to decimation by the cavalry As we learn later the formation of battalions into suares with a wall of bayonets protecting concentrated firepower was the critical strategy to defeat cavalry charges Harper pegs the Prince as a “silk stocking full of shit” and discussion of fragging him becomes a serious topic Illustration of a British deployment in the suare formation at the battle of the uatre Bras crossroadsBecause his scattered forces have not had time to coalesce Wellington is forced into a strategic retreat His choice of a site for consolidation and defense a ridge near Waterloo flanked by a solid farm house and a chateau was critical to his success Yet he counted on the Prussian army joining the fray and they were very late in arriving after their bludgeoning at Ligny Sharpe and Harper get to play a role in a miraculous beating off a nearly successful takeover of the farmhouse fortress From this point on Cornwell’s version of the battle gives emphasis to mistakes made by the French Their poor coordination between infantry artillery and cavalry is covered The French sending a huge cavalry force about a dozen times alone against the allies in suare formation is a big focus of the narrative Later when the superior numbers of the French seems to have prevailed Napolean sends the glorious undefeated Imperial Guards all dressed to the hilt in frippery to deliver an expected final blow But their keeping to orderly columns diminished their firepower It was cool to get to experience Sharpe and Harper rallying the ragged and nearly officerless forces of their old regiment the Prince of Wales’ Own Volunteers to outflank and rout the Guards It should be noted that this regiment is fictional with a home base in South Essex instead of South Lancashire for the historical regiment The British Recoats fighting at the gate to the strategic farmhouse redoubt at the beginning of the Waterloo battle Map of action showing the French in blue dividing the Anglo Dutch red and Prussians black defeating the latter at Ligny and the former at the crossroads of uatre Bras then facing Wellington near Waterloo 10 miles south of Brussels As usual Cornwell walks the line between showing the brutal and tragic realities of war and the uncaring blind ambitions of most commanding officers while at the same time revealing the heroism and resourcefulness of many common soldiers and lesser officers Again Sharpe wins our hearts with his balance of irreverent cynicism and brilliant actions on behalf of the success of his fellow soldiers If you have not read Sharpe tales you would do best not start to with this one But if you want to read it for a gritty bloody profile of this critical battle that would work fine Cornell’s afterward makes it clear that the history of the battle suffers from very limited accounts from Wellington and likely bias from versions told from the French perspectiveWhen I read the excellent Wikipedia account I learned how the engagement by the Prussians under Blücher near the end is considered another critical factor for the outcome Cornwell takes pains to present evidence that Blücher delayed his arrival on purpose so I don’t blame him for putting the British directed actions on center stage Regardless this definitive defeat of Napolean’s dream of empire was achieved though the highest butcher’s bill in history at the time about 15000 dead or wounded for Wellington’s army 8000 Blücher and 25000 for Napolean It would be another 50 years for the Battle of Gettysburg to supersede that level of slaughter and another 50 years for the Battle of the Somme to supersede that


  2. Rob Rob says:

    Book 20 in the Richard Sharpe seriesA bit of a change in the story narrative this time the last 19 books have been concerned with the life and times of Richard Sharpe with a battle of some importance as a back drop But this time the narrative is well and truly about the battle of Waterloo with the now Lt Col in Prince William of Orange’s army Richard Sharpe as a minor playerDid I miss Sharpe’s presence? YesDid it detract from the telling of the battle of Waterloo? NoThis is the moment that the last 19 books have been heading to the end of the Napoleonic WarsBernard Cornwell’s brilliance as a story teller brings the battle of Waterloo with all its blood and gore the cost in human and horse life was horrendous right to your favourite reading chair Talking of horses the slaughter of these poor animals was massive Of all the death and destruction that happened on the battle field it was the horses that I felt for The soldiers chose to be there the horses had no say in itThis is about as riveting as history getsA highly recommended 4 star read


  3. Adrian Deans Adrian Deans says:

    I've just re read the entire series over several months with a few other books sprinkled here and there I would rate Bernard Cornwell number one when it comes to historical fiction and the Sharpe series is my favourite of his many stories Obviously some are better than others but a few really stand out as superb and Waterloo is one of themPossibly the reason I enjoy this book so much I must've read it five times is the way it seeks to explain the numerous mysteries that confound historians despite the huge amount that was written at the time and shortly afterwards Historians can't even agree whether it was Wellington or Blucher who was most responsible for the victory and no one can properly account for why the French suddenly collapsed when on the brink of victory and still vastly outnumbering the BritishThat's all very interesting but even better is BC's characters both historical and fictional I've always loved his depiction of Wellington who appears in every story but one Trafalgar and his portrayal of the Prince of Orange in Waterloo is outstandingly graphic Even better are the fictional figures especially Harper and Sharpe himself The grief that the characters feel when split for the final time at the end of the wars is palpable BC clearly felt it as he wrote itHistory truly comes alive in the hands of Bernard Cornwell and I am grateful for the countless hours I've spent in his company


  4. Siria Siria says:

    I'd advise not reading the author's note at the end of the book because it tips the novel's John Bull ishness right over the edge into jingoism The body of the book is hardly great literature but it's enjoyable it could have been edited down but as a dubiously historical recounting of Waterloo from the first skirmishes at uatre Bras to the defeat of the Imperial Guard it rollicks along amiably enough Its biggest flaw however is that Sharpe just doesn't have a much of a purpose His movement from place to place on the line feels very forced after a while; Cornwell is clearly trying to manoeuvre him around so that he's always at the focal point of the battle and it grows contrived I could also have done without constant mentions of Harper and his Gaelic war cries Nothing needles me uicker than cod Oirishness


  5. Huw Rhys Huw Rhys says:

    Firstly my prejudices I've been a huge fan of the TV versions of the Sharpe books; I've been an even bigger fan of the Napoleonic Wars and Waterloo in particular I've probably read on and around the subject than is healthy for anyoneAlthough I've never actually read a Bernard Cornwell novel before I was really looking forward therefore to reading his account of Richard Sharpe's contribution to the Battle of WaterlooAll the ingredients for a literary disaster therefore I had set my sights so high disappointment was the only possible outcomeBut for once in my life reality exceeded a very high expectationCornwell manages to hit the bullseye on all fronts here This is an historical account as well as being a rip roaring novel; he describes and develops characters superbly throughout the plot without letting the individual's persona overshadow the action he is but a small cog within; he describes the visceral stomach churning horror of 19th Century battle whilst also introducing some delightful humour such as the two junior officers just falling into shellshock as the French cannons' create bloody mayhem all around them discussing the sport of golf I once saw a little man with a red beard playing golf at Troon into the narrative Finally he somehow manages to capture and describe the morality of man at war both at an individual and collective higher levelIf there is something that he leaves out of the book it is the political context of the Battle and the implications for both sides of winning and losing But as he says in the epilogue there are people far better ualified than him to do this and he is rightWhat impressed me most of all about this book though was the uality of the writing There is a rhythm to the author's sentences that seem to match the setting battle scenes are described in an almost staccato style echoing the junctures between the volleys of musket shots that are being described whereas some of the descriptive chapters of the novel are presented in longer languorous stanzas Everything is conveyed in a rich language which is actually very easy on the eyeI was expecting much from my first Bernard Cornwell book and my expectations were surpassed A fantastic read I'll be going back for


  6. Larry Deaton Larry Deaton says:

    Waterloo The True Story of Four Days Three Armies and Three Battles This is the actual book that I read and reviewed here What is shown in the header is Cornwell's 20th Sharpe novel This is the first non fiction book by Bernard Cornwell but he brings all the talent that he has honed over the years in writing his many historical novels to retelling the story of Waterloo It's worth mentioning up front that those who have read a lot of military history may be put off by the repetitiveness of some points that he want to drive home eg the way that the Duke of Wellington would invariably position his forces on the reverse side of slopes to protect them from artillery fire He repeats this perhaps ten times at different times in the books Notwithstanding the repetition I found it a great read Again I think his skill in writing fiction that allows him to build suspense of this battle even though you know the outcomeHe starts his story as Napoleon has returned from exile and sees most of the French army join him The action really gets underway as Wellington attends a ball in Brussels where most of his senior officers are in attendance The next day the Allied army is underway heading to a fateful encounter with the French forces near the small town of Waterloo Several engagements happen over the next few days beginning with uatre Bras Wellington with maybe only half of forces being of the uality that he needs goes into battle knows that if Blucher doesn't arrive with his Prussian army he probably will lose the battle to Napoleon And he had hoped never to fight Napoleon The suspense continues to buildThe battlefield action is terrible and it is well worth reading to fully comprehend what war really meant back then You will understand how the battle was won by the British and Prussians and how it was lost by the French generals In the end you will come to understand why Cornwell says that Napoleon was worshiped by his men Blucher was loved by his but Wellington was only respected by his One of the closing scenes has Wellington crying as he read over the casualty list of his officers It is a book that I will heartily recommend to anyone who wants to understand how the battle of Waterloo was fought and what it meant


  7. Sam Wilkinson Sam Wilkinson says:

    Some of my favourite Sharpe moments are in this book and some uality comedy from when Sharpe is busy elsewhere I don't know how accurate the battle descriptions are but they are vivid I do believe that this book will work as a standalone novel there's enough background to catch you up but when the back story is waiting to be read why skip it? It doesn't matter how many times I reread these it doesn't matter that I remember all of the twists o the little surprises it's still an excellent read


  8. James James says:

    As well written as ever The boys own adventure delivers the thrills made all the better by the historical detail and nuance


  9. Marko Marko says:

    The 20th Sharpe novel delves into the famous battle of Waterloo and pretty much nothing else This time around Sharpe serves in the staff of the Prince of Orange fighting the war against Napoleon The author goes to great lengths to justify Sharpe's presence in the lead up engagement and then in the main battle at Waterloo and not all of these feel very natural and Sharpe really doesn't have much to do in most of those battles and serves mostly as an observerThis is the greatest failing of the novel Sharpe really doesn't have anything to do but observe the battles and use a small sliver of his time to miss his farm and its apple trees and only a little bit of time wanting his money back from his wife who's stolen it and lives with another man nowOther characters are as badly employed The worst case is a character who's entire arc consists of him being certain that he will die in the upcoming battle This is pretty much the entirety of the character so it is no wonder that the reader doesn't really care what the outcome isThe final battle the battle of Waterloo takes a lion's share of the novel and is mostly a very dull read There are a couple of occasions where Sharpe has a little to do but even they seem tacked on It seems that the author was too worried about writing a correct description of the battle and could not have Sharpe messing it up too muchOverall this was a surprisingly weak addition to the series especially when you consider that it is part of the original run before Cornwell went back to write additional generally weaker novels to fill in the gaps between his earlier novels


  10. Graham Graham says:

    I'd suspected that SHARPE'S WATERLOO the penultimate Sharpe adventure and the culmination of his adventures in the Napoleonic War could be nothing but a triumph After all it's a novel dedicated to one of the biggest most remembered battles in all of history so how could Cornwell get it wrong? He built to it for a decade honing his craft with minor but no less gripping stories before finally sitting down to tackle itNeedless to say I loved everything about this story It's a massive epic feeling book one that exhausts and moves you and makes you feel like you're a spectator in the battlefield Cornwell admits in his foreword that he tried to combine the story of the battle with a plot before giving up on the latter which was the right decision Waterloo is the story in itself This is the most ferocious bloody and terrible battle of Sharpe's entire campaignSHARPE'S WATERLOO is one of the longer Sharpe stories clocking in at over 400 pages but it feels like one of the shortest because the pages fly as you read I knew very little about Waterloo itself before I started this and I'm left feeling like perhaps not an expert but somebody who knows a great deal I'm wanting to find out too which can only be a good thingJust one to go now SHARPE'S DEVIL It's been a long old slog but this will be the year I finally finish the series It's going to be a bittersweet close one of the reading joys in my life was always knowing I had a new Sharpe novel waiting for me whenever I chose to look at it


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