Blandford Candy #1
The Last Roundhead is the story of Sir Blandford Candy and his adventures as Roundhead soldier and intelligencer (spy). In 1642 he is sent to London by his family, having disgraced himself at home with an affair, and is asked to deliver letters to his uncle, a member of parliament. His uncle gives him choices — return home, go to the New World, or accept a commission to fight with his uncle, and that is what he decides to do.
Candy is a strong character and circumstances mean he has a life full of adventure and incident. He is at turns brave and shrewd, lazy and selfish. Evans very effectively captures both the extraordinary nature of the times and the way the life of Candy and his fellow soldiers becomes oddly normal. The narration was good, giving Candy’s voice a heightened quality that suits his flamboyant character.
The writing is rich in the texture of daily life — from food to weapons to soldiers’ slang. The humour of Candy and his comrades is quite adolescent at times but it does serve as a reminder that many of the soldiers were very young.
The frame of the novel is that Candy as an old man in 1720 is looking back on his life. The storytelling has an episodic feel, a procession of set pieces rather than a story with a strong narrative. I prefer a strong forward drive in a story, particularly if I’m going to continue reading through the series.
I was initially confused by all the digressions in the narrative – extracts from (real) contemporary accounts, poetry, letters purportedly from Candy’s family and so on, until I read in a review that the text is full of footnotes.
Although the narrator did highlight them by voicing them differently, they felt quite jarring in an audiobook. (I think footnotes in fiction generally should be avoided, unless you’re Flann O’Brien or Alan Partridge.)
If you like military history and well-researched historical fiction, with lashings of scatalogical humour, then The Last Roundhead may be the book for you.
I received a copy of The Last Roundhead audiobook from the narrator.
View The Last Roundhead on Goodreads
Like historical fiction? Take a look at my favourite historical fiction series.
This doesn’t necessarily sound like a match for my reading taste, as I have moved away from historical fiction in recent years, but elements of it do appeal: the nature and extent of the everyday detail – and your observation that the adolescent tone as an apt reminder of the characters’ stage of life – and I’m one who does enjoy footnotes in fiction (not always, but some times – and maybe that’s what you’re saying as well…I do think they’d be jarring in any format other than the printed page).
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