George V. Reilly

Review: Flash For Freedom!

Flash For Freedom!
Title: Flash For Freedom!
Author: George MacDonald Fraser
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Publisher: Plume
Copyright: 1971
Pages: 304
Keywords: historical fiction, humor
Reading period: 11–20 July, 2016
Flashman Papers III: 1848–49

Flash For Freedom! is the third volume of the Flashman Papers, in which Flashy gets caught up in the slave trade. After a scandal involving cheating and assault, England becomes too hot for young Flashman and his father-in-law ships him off. Flashman quickly realizes that he’s on a slave ship captained by a lunatic that is bound for Africa to take on a cargo of slaves, and he’s horrified. Not so much about slavery but that running slaves is proscribed in 1848 and he’s fearful of the ship being seized by an in­ter­dict­ing navy. They take a cargo to the Americas, but offload it before being captured by the U.S. Navy. Flashman manages to pose as a Royal Navy spy, then escapes before having to give testimony. He flees up the Mis­sis­sip­pi in a variety of guises; re­luc­tant­ly escorting escaped slaves; then becoming a slavedriv­er himself for a while before the cuckholded slaveowner has Flashman sold into slavery; escaping across a frozen river to be saved from slave­catch­ers by Con­gress­man Abraham Lincoln; before ultimately ending up in a New Orleans courtroom.

While Flashman—a conscience-free scoundrel and 19th century im­pe­ri­al­ist—is blasé and largely un­con­cerned about slavery, Fraser carefully works in material that indicates that, unlike his creation, he is aghast at the in­sti­tu­tion of slavery, both the truly vile taking of slaves from Africa and the no less in­de­fen­si­ble slave­hold­ing in the southern states.

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