Look Sharpe!

I posted this press release on my own blog a few days ago, and thought it was newsworthy enough to post here, too (and there are questions for you to answer at the end):


-Romantic war saga stars Sean Bean

Every Saturday night this summer, BBC AMERICA takes viewers on a sweeping two-hour journey to a new land, a new battle, and a new set of potential love interests with the epic romantic war saga Sharpe. Created by novelist Bernard Cornwell and starring Sean Bean (North Country), Sharpe chronicles the victories and loves of the legendary fictional Napoleonic war hero, Richard Sharpe. BBC AMERICA is showing the complete fifteen-episode series from the first episode, Sharpe’s Rifles, through to the U.S. premiere BBC AMERICA co-production, Sharpe’s Challenge, shot in India. Sharpe’s Rifles premieres Saturday, May 27, 9:00 p.m. ET/10:00 p.m. PT.

Sharpe’s Rifles begins in 1809 when Sharpe is a scrappy Sergeant. After bravely saving the life of a distinguished Captain, he is quickly promoted to Lieutenant and charged with a company of men slated for a rescue mission in Portugal. Throughout June, BBC AMERICA features channel premieres Sharpe’s Eagle, Sharpe’s Company, Sharpe’s Enemy and Sharpe’s Honor. In July and August, BBC AMERICA features channel premieres, Sharpe’s Gold, Sharpe’s Battle and Sharpe’s Sword and the brand-new, never before seen U.S. premieres Sharpe’s Regiment, Sharpe’s Siege, Sharpe’s Mission, Sharpe’s Revenge, Sharpe’s Waterloo and Sharpe’s Justice.

September brings the U.S. premiere of BBC AMERICA co-production, Sharpe’s Challenge, shot entirely in India. The fate of an empire rests in one man’s hands in Sharpe’s Challenge. Two years after the battle of Waterloo, dispatches from India warn that a local Maharaja is threatening British interests. Wellington sends Sharpe to investigate on what turns out to be his most dangerous mission to date.

For up-to-the-minute information on BBC AMERICA, forthcoming U.S. premieres, art work and news from the channel, log on to www.press.bbcamerica.com.

Seeing this made me think of many, many questions. I love reading the Sharpe series (and have never seen the series, so I am way excited), not so much for its time period (Regency), but for the amazing way Bernard Cornwell has with a battle scene, and his ability to throw in some surprising twists even through the course of what appears to be a normal action-packed novel. His writing is so fluid, and so compelling, I learn history without even noticing it. I’ve read his books set in the Middle Ages also, and he has a Civil War series I’ve gotten a few books of, but haven’t read yet.

So–have you read Cornwell? Do you like his writing? If you’ve read the Sharpe series, is Sean Bean a good Sharpe? What other series (historical or otherwise) would you like to see made into movies? Do you find that once a book has been translated to film that it limits the way you imagine the characters? What’s the best book to film adaptation have you seen? And the worst?

Thanks for answering–


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11 Responses to Look Sharpe!

  1. Cara King says:

    I’ve never actually read any of the Sharpe books, but I have seen almost all the television versions. 🙂 I like them very much, though they do vary in quality. There was one (for spoilers’ sake, I won’t say which one) that I thought was really stupid… Todd pointed out that in that one, they totally changed the plot from the book! (I think, however, that most are based on the particular book. This isn’t James Bond or anything…. Though Sharpe does seem like the Regency version of Mr. Love ’em and Leave ’em.) 🙂

    I like Sean Bean very much, though not having read the books, of course I can’t say whether he suits Cornwell’s character! Though I have heard that Cornwell very much approves. (Though of course Sean Bean is very different in some ways from the book Sharpe — he, um, isn’t Cockney, for one thing.) 🙂

    Cara (who has SO many books she hasn’t read!)

  2. Janie says:

    Omigod! I am in heaven. Yes, Sean Bean is PERFECT as Sharpe and I’ve read the books and seen the earlier episodes here in America.

    In fact, I fell in love with Sharpe and read all the books because of those episodes. And also began studying Napoleon and battles.

    Sharpe and his little regiment are an inspiration.

    IMHO, all the characters in the BBC shows are well defined.

  3. Megan, my introduction to Sharpe was through my library’s audiobooks. They had almost all of the Chivers Audiobook version of the Sharpe series, narrated by William Gaminara. OMIGOD what a voice that man had! I can still hear him say, “Sharpe swore.” I never read the books but I listened to them over and over on my commute to work. Then my library purchased the next book with a new narrator, a man with a very pompous, monotonous voice and my love affair was over.

    I went to a booksigning Cornwell had at a local B&N. He’s an entertaining speaker. I have a signed book.

    I am thrilled to know the series is coming to BBC America, because I missed it before and have only seen a few from VHS tapes – I own the Waterloo one, I think. But I consider the TV series to be “Sharpe lite.” It is wonderful, but doesn’t quite cover the depth and detail in the books.

    My one frustration with Sharpe is he is such a fool about women, falling for any woman who happens in his path. I thought his final choice very unsatisfying, but I attribute that to Cornwell being a man–more attuned to action and battle than romance.

    Sean Bean is wonderful and sexy, but was never the Sharpe of my imagination. My Sharpe was taller, with dark-hair and a different face! Patrick in the TV series is all wrong, too, even more than Bean, but lovers of the Regency time period and of the Napoleonic War will enjoy the TV series, and enjoy watching Sean Bean even if he isn’t “my” Sharpe!

  4. Suisan says:

    Sometimes I take these blog questions as true homework, which is bad for my physical health. My stomach is in knots, I have a headache, I’ve been trying to come up with names of movies I think I might have seen, and this had been going on all day.

    After completely overthinking the question, I think I can say that I don’t remember a Count of Monte Cristo adaptation I really liked, and I need some alka selzter.

  5. Amanda says:

    Looks like it’s time for me to get that digital cable I’ve been putting off.

    I haven’t read the Sharpe books, but I saw the first several series back in the day when they aired on PBS.

    The best book to film adaptation I’ve seen is The Remains of the Day. The book is wonderful, and the movie was a very faithful adaptation of Ishiguro’s text, which was almost cinematic to begin with.

    Diane, isn’t it funny how the wrong reader can spoil a book on tape? That’s why I’m not a big fan of them. I wish instead of having one reader they’d hire a man for the men’s voices and a woman for the women’s voices.

    It pulls me out of the story when the male reader has to go into falsetto for the women’s voices and the female reader has to do the low register for male voices. Sometimes it works but usually it just bugs me.

  6. LOL, Mandacoll! This is so true. I absolutely hate it when the readers “do” voices. I can’t remember what book on tape I was listening to once, but I was totally thrown out of the story by the fact that the reader had a very strong “backwoods” accent. I suppose it was meant to fit with the story, but just bothered me.

    I read the Sharpe books (only a few of them) after seeing the movies, which I love, so I always kind of saw Sean Bean in the part anyway. But if I went by the actual description of him in the text, it wouldn’t be Sean Bean at all. I agree with Diane on Sharpe’s judgement of women, too!

  7. oh gawd, is he cute or what…but I’m looking at those teeth and thinking they cannot be real. I mean, he’s English. Please tell me the lovely and talented Sean doesn’t keep them in a glass of water overnight.

    I’ll have to give Sharpe another try as I watched an episode once for a short time, thought the heavy metal title music stupid, and altogether there was too much female heaving cleavage. And Sharpe looked like he needed a good bath, altho quite pretty under the dirt. He was cleaner in LOTR (marginally). He also starred in the BBC’s “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” where you have the treat of seeing him in the altogether (and about a 7 on the 0-10 cleanliness scale).

    But back to the question. Sometimes books you wouldn’t go out of your way to read make superlative tv–I’m thinking of the Forsyte Saga, for instance (which had some very pretty men in the cast). Sometimes terrific books make awful tv–like “Daniel Deronda” which was a big snooze for me, and mainly because I love the book so much.


  8. Elena Greene says:

    I have to confess I’ve read only one book and seen a couple of the movies. They are all high on my to-be-read and to-be-seen lists, though.

    And I am working hard on my fencing so I can defend my claim to Sean!

  9. I’m trying to work out when these are being shown on BBC Canada! I have seen most of the TV series but really love them. Bernard Cornwell said that Sean Bean wasn’t who he pictured Richard Sharpe to be when he first saw him (his Sharpe was older in his mind), Cornwell then said as soon as he saw Sean acting he was so good he kind of took over the character and became Richard Sharpe in Cornwell’s mind. Kind of like TV shaping stories and stories shaping TV.

  10. Todd says:

    I guess I’ve come a bit late to this party, but I’ve read nearly all the Sharpe novels (all except “Sharpe’s Prey,” I believe, though I own it), and all but one of the movies. So I guess I must like them both! 🙂 Sean Bean is not much like Cornwell’s description of Sharpe, but he does an excellent job nevertheless, and I’ve heard Cornwell say in interviews that he likes Bean very much in the role.

    Sharpe is a fool about women–but he’s sometimes no great prize himself. In some of the books he is very brutal (which they toned down considerably for the films), and in others he wins no great awards for fidelity. I must admit, I don’t enjoy those parts of the saga, though they are arguably realistic, given Sharpe’s background and upbringing. I guess I like my heroes to be admirable all the time, which is perhaps asking a bit much! But I still very much like the series.

    BTW, the film Cara mentioned, which was one of the weakest, does indeed differ completely in plot from the book of the same title. But unfortunately, the original book is one of the weakest, too! It just seems like that title is cursed. (Notice I’m still not saying which one it is. Is that evil, or what?)

    If anyone hasn’t read the series, I’d advise starting with “Sharpe’s Rifles” and “Sharpe’s Eagle.” The latter was the first book written, while the former was written much later as a prequel, but they fit together nicely when read in chronological order. I would NOT advise reading the even earlier prequels first, though (Sharpe’s Tiger and others); I think with those it helps to know where Sharpe is going, which gives you a greater appreciation for where he came from.

    Anyway, I heartily recommend them to everyone. Let’s talk about the Patrick O’Brien Aubrey/Maturin series next. 🙂


  11. Todd:

    I know we’ve discussed this before, but I could not make it through O’Brian. tried. Couldn’t do it.

    I do love Sharpe, though. Although I am reading them in chronological order, so maybe I’ll enjoy it even better when I read those books you mention as the good ones to start with.

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