Sharpe in India

I have a confession to make. With the Sharpe series, I broke my own rule about reading the book before seeing the film adaptation. I started out by reading SHARPE’S RIFLES, saw the film and then just continued watching the series. Just couldn’t help myself, I guess! 🙂

Now I’m making reparation by reading all the books, starting with the earliest. I just finished the first three which are set in India: SHARPE’S TIGER, SHARPE’S TRIUMPH and SHARPE’S FORTRESS. I just loved these books. I find the military history fascinating and Cornwell does a brilliant job recreating scenes I’d read about in WELLINGTON IN INDIA by Jac Weller. But most of all I love the character development. Sharpe starts out as an ex-thief, pretty much a knuckle-dragging, musket-toting goon with few aspirations and even fewer morals. But you also see his potential. These books show the early stages of transformation from the sort of soldier Wellington called the scum of the earth into a hero. I also enjoyed the depictions of Wellington (which felt very real to me) and the fictional character of Colonel McCandless, a mentor in Sharpe’s “hero’s journey”, a grown-up version of Jiminy Cricket helping to keep Sharpe on the path of honor.

I also watched SHARPE’S CHALLENGE, the film in which Sharpe returns to India several years after Waterloo on a mission to find his missing buddy Sergeant Harper. Elements of the three India books were recast to fit the new time frame. For that very reason, I found the film disappointing. I missed the early character development and also didn’t appreciate that they killed off Lucille to allow Sharpe this last adventure. The romantic elements were scanty, after all. I don’t know why Sharpe could not have completed his mission and returned to Lucille. But that’s why I’m a romance writer, I guess!

Pluses of the film: evocative views of India, another chance to see Sharpe and Harper in action and a truly horrible villain played by Toby Stephens.

Has anyone read these books or seen the film? What did you think?

And if all this talk of India and Sharpe make you feel hot for any reason, do go ahead and refresh yourselves with a visit to Candice Hern’s new collection of Regency era fans. They are very lovely!

Elena
www.elenagreene.com

About Elena Greene

Elena Greene grew up reading anything she could lay her hands on, including her mother's Georgette Heyer novels. She also enjoyed writing but decided to pursue a more practical career in software engineering. Fate intervened when she was sent on a three year international assignment to England, where she was inspired to start writing romances set in the Regency. Her books have won the National Readers' Choice Award, the Desert Rose Golden Quill and the Colorado Romance Writers' Award of Excellence. Her Super Regency, LADY DEARING'S MASQUERADE, won RT Book Club's award for Best Regency Romance of 2005 and made the Kindle Top 100 list in 2011. When not writing, Elena enjoys swimming, cooking, meditation, playing the piano, volunteer work and craft projects. She lives in upstate New York with her two daughters and more yarn, wire and beads than she would like to admit.
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19 Responses to Sharpe in India

  1. Susan/DC says:

    I read the Sharpe books in order and had a strict rule that I couldn’t watch the films until I’d read the book. In a way it didn’t truly matter because the films were so different, but it did keep me reading just to get the chance to see Sean Bean in motion.

    Like you, I couldn’t understand why they killed off Lucille in “Sharpe’s Challenge” — it had absolutely no impact on the plot. In the books his Indian adventures occur before the Peninsular wars, so he hadn’t even met Lucille or Harper at the time — India was just where he was posted in the Army. Must admit, however, that I had great fun watching Bean, Toby Stephens, and Padma Lakshmi (sp?). Stephens made a great villain, and Lakshmi is stunningly beautiful (totally OT, but her marriage to Salman Rushdie was definitely a Beauty and the Beast match).

  2. I have read the books and watched the movies totally pel-mel, no system at all! 🙂 But I do enjoy them both so much. Sean Bean and the Sharpe I “see” when I read the book are totally different, and yet both are the character. Makes no sense, I know. I didn’t like this movie nearly as much as the earlier ones, though.

  3. Todd says:

    I happened to see the first two films on PBS–I hadn’t heard of the series before then. Then I went and read all the books that had been written up to that time (which basically was Sharpe’s Eagle up to Waterloo, plus Sharpe’s Rifles, which is set earlier but was written later). Later, we managed to see most of the other movies on The History Channel, and then got a boxed set on VHS (remember that?). I haven’t seen Sharpe’s Challenge, though. Netflix!

    When Cornwell went back and started writing prequels I read most of those, as well, though I still haven’t gotten around to reading the last one or two of them. I must admit, contriving to have Sharpe at Trafalgar strains even my willing suspension of disbelief. 🙂

    I’ve liked both the movies and the books, though like all series they are a bit of a mixed bag. For instance, I thought the book Sharpe’s Gold was pretty bad and didn’t make a lot of sense. Perhaps the producers agreed, because they invented a completely new plot for the film Sharpe’s Gold. But it was also pretty bad and didn’t make a lot of sense! I guess that title is cursed. 🙂

    Todd-who-can’t-wait-for-Sharpe-Becomes-An-Old-Age-Pensioner

  4. I saw all the films (except for Sharpe’s Challenge, which didn’t yet exist) before I’d read a single one of the books. You see, the instant I got home from seeing Fellowship of the Ring, I begged some online friends to tell me if that incredibly hot and compelling actor who played Boromir was in anything else. One of them, knowing my interest in the Regency era, just said, “Oh, honey,” and pointed me at the Sharpe films.

    Once I got around to reading the books, I decided that much as I love Sean Bean, the books are far better than the movies–there’s so much more there. I love all three of the India prequels, and Sharpe’s Triumph is in a three-way tie with Sharpe’s Trafalgar and Sharpe’s Waterloo for my favorite of the whole series.

    I still haven’t seen Sharpe’s Challenge, though I got the DVD for Christmas last year. It’s on my long list of “things I should watch eventually,” but it’s so rare that I have an hour or more of free time and the TV to myself.

    Anyway, the Sharpe series has done so much to feed my interest in the Napoleonic Wars and therefore to drive my own writing interests that I have to laugh when I remember that wanting to see more of that hot Boromir actor is what hooked me initially.

  5. Kalen Hughes says:

    I read all the books long before I saw the films. Love ’em both. What I don’t love are the “prequels” sent in India that were written after the original Peninsula War series. Why? Because Sharpe goes through a wonderful growth arc during the series, but when Cornwall went back in time to write the prequels he had the “end result Sharpe” still in his head, or so it seemed to me (and a lot of my friends). The young Sharpe we see in the prequel books simply isn’t at all the way he was described and characterized in the first few books of the original series. It really bugged me (note that I still read them all though, LOL!).

  6. Kalen Hughes says:

    I have to laugh when I remember that wanting to see more of that hot Boromir actor is what hooked me initially.

    Sean Bean has totally sold me on a Yorkshire accent. I remember being really surprised that his accent was the one so despised in Heyer’s Arabella. Broad Yorkshire drawl sooooo works for me. *grin*

  7. Oh, I LOOOOVEEEE me some Sharpe! I am about to read Sharpe’s Havoc, I’ve seen all the films but the last.

    The hero of the book I started writing today is based on Sharpe, so I just requested some Sharpe movies from the library, for research, you know.

  8. The young Sharpe we see in the prequel books simply isn’t at all the way he was described and characterized in the first few books of the original series. It really bugged me (note that I still read them all though, LOL!).

    I agree with this, but it had the opposite effect on me–I like the young Sharpe of the prequels better than the Sharpe of the early Peninsular War books, so I prefer his books. Reading the series did, however, make me vow to never write prequels myself. (Which probably just means if I’m ever an established author, either my editor will ask for a prequel or my muse will force one on me, because I’ve already discovered “never” is a dangerous word for an author to utter!)

    Sean Bean has totally sold me on a Yorkshire accent. I remember being really surprised that his accent was the one so despised in Heyer’s Arabella. Broad Yorkshire drawl sooooo works for me. *grin*

    You and me both. Though the guy I knew from Yorkshire when I was living in Bristol had an accent so thick I was lucky to understand half of what he said. That wasn’t quite so sexy. Though, you know, if he’d looked like Sean Bean, I’m sure I would’ve made more of an effort…

    But yeah, Sean Bean’s Sharpe and Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor have totally sold me on English Northern accents.

  9. Erastes says:

    My dad introduced me to Sharpe many years back and I read all the ones that were available and gobble up every new one that comes along. I got a bit annoyed recently because he retro-wrote in his more recent books to explain why Sharpe has a Yorkshire accent, which was very wrong imho – pandering to the TV Series, when Richard in the early books was very much a Londoner.

    But I love the books and the films, I simply treat them as two seperate canon.

  10. Diane Gaston says:

    I listened to all the early Sharpe books on audiobooks narrated by William Gaminara http://tinyurl.com/6hlbxd

    OMIGOD, that man has the sexiest voice since Gerard Butler!
    You can hear Gaminara read from Sharpe books here http://tinyurl.com/6onhhd

    I listened to the tapes long before I saw Sean Bean in the role and gorgeous as he was in that series, he was never the Sharpe of the books to me. That Sharpe was even taller and dark-haired. And had William Gaminara’s voice (g)

    I always thought of the Sharpe videos as “Sharpe-lite” – they just could never manage the scope and depth of the books.

    I stopped “reading” them after my library economized and bought a different audio company’s version of Sharpe, with some stuffy old British geezer narrating. I even complained!! They said that version was cheaper.

    I also went to see Bernard Cornwell at a booksigning. He comes across as a nice, witty, and interesting man.

    And he made me love the Napoleonic War, too!

  11. Diane Gaston says:

    I got a bit annoyed recently because he retro-wrote in his more recent books to explain why Sharpe has a Yorkshire accent, which was very wrong imho – pandering to the TV Series, when Richard in the early books was very much a Londoner.

    Oh, that upsets me, too, Erastes! Sharpe will always be that Londoner from the Rookery to me.—with William Gaminara’s voice.

  12. Santa says:

    Does anyone know how to get the Sharpe series? Are they available from PBS or Netflix? I’m dying to see the one with Toby Stephens and I think Sean Bean is wonderful to watch — act.

    I’d like to read the series and will have to see what my library system has to offer.

  13. Diane Gaston says:

    And another thing…. Daragh O’Malley was ALL WRONG for Harper. Harper was a huge fellow, very intimidating to the enemy, but a teddy bear kind of guy.
    The other riflemen in the series were pretty good, though.

  14. Elena Greene says:

    Interesting takes on the characterizations, Kalen and Susan. I thought I noticed some sort of discontinuity myself but put it down to the fact that I read SHARPE’S RIFLES a number of years ago and might just not get it. I do like the Sharpe of the early books very much, in an odd way. I love that he thought about deserting. It makes things very interesting!

    That’s interesting about the accents. I confess that had me confused too. This is what comes of reading and watching the series in mixed order.

    Oh well, I will catch up and when I do, I’m glad I have friends who will discuss it with me! 🙂

  15. Elena Greene says:

    Santa, Netflix has the whole series.

    And Todd, I forgot to mention I agree about the SHARPE’S GOLD movie–just weird. But as you said, even the best series can have lower points. I’ll have to read the book anyway, along with SHARPE’S TRAFALGAR, just to figure out how he managed it. I am compulsive that way.

  16. Jane says:

    The only I’ve seen was Sharpe’s Challenge on BBC America. I was a little lost with the characters because I never saw the previous chapters, but I did enjoy this episode a lot. The new one, Sharpe’s Peril, is in post production right now. I don’t know when it will air.

  17. Kalen Hughes says:

    I agree with this, but it had the opposite effect on me–I like the young Sharpe of the prequels better than the Sharpe of the early Peninsular War books, so I prefer his books.

    Oh, the re-envisioned Sharpe is a much better/nicer guy, and that’s the problem! Suddenly youthful Sharpe is the same as older, battle weary Sharpe who’s come so far and learned so much, and now early Peninsula War Sharpe makes no sense in context. And god forbid you actually try and read the books in order (which a Johnny-come-lately I know recently did and he was totally confused by the stitch-a-roo).

  18. I’ve seen bits n pieces of the series, which didn’t do a whole lot for me, but I did see a documentary about making Sharpe’s Challenge which was amazing. All the props, and Wellington’s office and furnishings were made in India by craftsmen using hand tools. There were some nice shots of Bean and co watching an important British soccer match (his team lost).

    Incidentally, if you poke around online you can find pics of Bean naked for the movie of Lady Chatterly’s Lover. Not that I’d do that sort of thing, of course, but they are out there. Just FYI.

  19. And god forbid you actually try and read the books in order

    But I did! Of course, I knew going in that they’d been written out of order, so I was able to roll with the inconsistencies.

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