Friday, June 14, 2013

Bernard Cornwell's SHARPE'S GOLD

I've never been more eager to see a TV/movie adaptation of a novel as I am that of Sharpe's Gold. This is not because of its quality, which is fair to middling as Sharpe novels go.* Rather, it's because I'm dying of curiosity as to how the continuity problem is going to be handled.

The continuity problem named Teresa Moreno, whom I've already seen played to dashing perfection by the great Assumpta Serna in the TV movies of Sharpe's Rifles and Sharpe's Eagle. Even though her character didn't belong in them. Ahem.

Of course, I didn't realize until I got to this book what a problem she was going to pose, as this, Sharpe's Gold, is the novel wherein Sharpe and Teresa meet, and it's not at all cute. Sharpe has been directed to go collect rather a lot of Spanish gold that was moved to a sort-of-safe place until it could be paid out to the Spanish army -- their wages -- but then the Spanish army got its collective posterior well and truly kicked by the French and there basically isn't one anymore. There are just guerrillas (and I just this second noticed that this word basically translates into something like "mini-war"), known as the Partisans, herding sheep and growing barley by day, making life hell on earth for the French by night, sleeping, uh... sometime?

A family of them is more or less guarding the gold, in the family crypt, until what's left of the Spanish government figures out what to do with it and how to transport it to where it's needed.** Except said government has pretty much farmed that task out to the British, who have, via the newly made Lord Wellesley, in turn farmed it out to one Richard Sharpe, killer of men, destroyer of armies, hopeless dimwit when confronted with a pretty face (or, in this case, a girl with the guts and the looks to lead the French army away from her men by running naked through the night).

But see, the Partisans don't trust the British. And Teresa's fiance is chief of the Partisans thereabouts. And may also have some ideas of his own about what to do with that gold.

So next thing we know, Teresa is a hostage. Who doesn't seem to think much of Sharpe. Whom she has just met. But in the TV movies, in the movies, they've already made whoopie and promises. Quite a lot.

So as I said, for this one, I'm mostly interested in seeing how the whole Teresa plot gets handled for the little screen. My guess is the fiance will just turn out to be an ex-lover and there will be no side-switching and whatnot. Which will be duller than this novel was.

But maybe I'm wrong. Because there is plenty to enjoy aside from the Teresa plot, of course. I can't wait to see that great German brute, Helmut, in action, for instance. Because anyone Pat Harper regards as a big ol' monster is going to be something to see, a veritable Hodor, except trained with the sabre. Zowie!

And also, one of my favorite minor characters dying. Le sigh.

And also, Alameida. Which, OMG Alameida.

*Meaning it's still a damned fine book, but there have been better ones. I still like all the India books better than any of the Peninsular ones, so far, and this one didn't change my mind. And Sharpe's Havoc is still the best of the Peninsular War novels I've read.

**This, of course, reminds me of the bit with the heaps of Nazi war gold in the middle of the Philippine jungle in Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, and of Goto Dengo's observation that "gold is the corpse of value." But unlike that gold, Sharpe's gold is needed for a mind-blowingly epic purpose, in one of Cornwell's neatest weaving of history and fiction and speculation I've yet seen. Well done!

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