Monday, May 10, 2010

Review: The Campaigners, by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

Pages: 580

Original date of publication: 1990

My edition: 2006 (Sphere)

Why I decided to read: it’s a continuation of the Morland series

How I acquired my copy:, September 2009

#14: Spring-summer 1815; covers the Battle of Waterloo

As Napoleon’s reign comes to its inevitable end and the allied troops converge for a last, decisive battle, the beau monde of English society gather in Brussels, essentially creating their own little society there, complete with cricket matches and balls and coming out parties. Lucy and Heloise, now respectable matrons, take Rosamund and Sophie there for their coming out, as James Morland (back in England) attempts to deal with the devastating loss of his daughter, Fanny. In Brussels, Rosamund deals with her feelings for Marcus, and Sophie falls in love with a French major. It seems that the only man not in uniform is Bobbie, Earl of Chelmsford.

This is a very strong addition to the series, again, with some very strong characters and character development. The titles of the books in this series often have a double meaning; in this case, you could consider Rosamund and Sophie as kind of campaigners in the marriage market, even as Wellington and his men campaign against Napoleon. Although the outcome of the war is of course well known, I found myself invested enough in the characters to care about who survives this particular chapter of history—or not. The novel features many returning characters, but introduces a nice collection of new ones that I hope to see in future installments of the series. Plus, there’s that rivalry between Benedict and Nicholas, still children here, which threatens to blow into a full conflict later on…

The author’s descriptions of the period are excellent, describing as they do the calm before the storm, so to speak: the day to day lives of people in English society, leading up to that famous ball on the eve of the battle of Waterloo, and through the battle itself. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Harrod-Eagles is especially skilled at battle scenes. Once again the Morland family has a front-row seat to what’s going on, and are indeed active participants. It’s an interesting way to learn about history, especially since I don’t know much about the 19th century pre-Victoria. Military history seems to be something that Cynthia Harrod-Eagles is passionately interested in, as seen in the descriptions of the battle at Quatre Bras and Waterloo.


Teresa said...

When I got to this book, I declared it my favorite in the series, until I got to the next, which was almost as good. I just finished #18, which dwells on Nicholas and Benedict, and I'm surprised to realize that they first showed up so far back!

And you're right on about her writing of battle scenes. She's one of the best writers of battles that I've encountered.

Marg said...

I really need to hurry up and read the next book in this series (she says despite the fact that she is returning it to the library unread yet again tonight!). I have really enjoyed the few books I have read, and I expect to continue to enjoy them. Just have to make the time.


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