Book Review, Fiction, Historical, Satire

Brigadier Etienne Gerard series written by Arthur Conan Doyle

“Gerard is the hero of a series of comic short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The hero, Etienne Gerard, is a Hussar in the French Army during the Napoleonic Wars. Gerard’s most notable attribute is his vanity – he is utterly convinced that he is the bravest soldier, greatest swordsman, accomplished horseman and gallant lover in all France. Gerard is not entirely wrong since he displays notable bravery on many occasions, but his self-satisfaction undercuts this quite often. Obsessed with honour and glory, he is always ready with a stirring speech or a gallant remark to a lady.

Conan Doyle, in making his hero a vain, and often rather uncomprehending Frenchman, was able to satirize both the stereotypical English view of the French, and – by presenting them from Gerard’s baffled point of view – English manners and attitudes.”

– Taken from Wikipedia

Complete_Brigadier_Gerard I could not have found a better explanation for the book and the character therein that I just finished and enjoyed immensely (I thank Saurabh Singh for giving me the first book I ever read about Gerard – this is my re-reading of the books).

If you are fond of books laden with nice old world adventures (gallant adventures as Gerard would have said) where the hero comes through, no matter what the situation, you would like this book. On top of this, if you like your stories to have a touch of irony, a dash of satire and dollops of humour, you simply got to read the book (and the other in the series – the Adventures of Gerard). These will not leave you hee-hawing with laughter but will leave you feeling better than that – this book has the touch of humour that you can readily associate with Don Quixote. The man retelling these stories as an old man is so damn full of himself and yet feels he is being humble at times when he is at his height of boasting; but this quality instantly endears you to him as he takes you on his extraordinary adventures.

It is also a world of romance and of war, the era when whole nations mobilized to fight, yet Etienne Gerard makes both of them seem the same. The stories account for historical facts but these are no historical journals. The hero of the story is present in almost all the theatres of the Napoleonic wars and he always seems to play a significant part in it, atleast by his reckoning. His mannerism and his style of thinking is very catchy and soon you begin to feel that you would really like to talk to this Frenchman. What is most entertaining in the stories are his opinions and his proclamations, whether with reference to a beautiful woman, to the Emperor, to France, the British or to Hussars. All of them serve to bring up the stereotypical Frenchman but you don’t mind that because you fall in the love with Etienne Gerard before long and you like him just the way he is.



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