Joseph By Julian Rathbone By Julian Rathbone

A vivid worm's-eye view of the Peninsula War by the eponymous anti-hero in what Rathbone helpfully and mischievously explains is to be presented as a picaresque novel. Descriptive passages on the disembarkation of Wellington's forces and horses and of those battle scenes that Joseph fails to avoid are thrilling in their detail, and pitched in among the swirling confusion and changing fortunes and loyalties of war.
The narrator is unprincipled, acting at one time as an agent against both sides, neglectful of duty, and not entirely reliable in his account, either from self-interest or delicacy, intent on survival but not without some ability to do good, albeit sometimes forced by circumstance. Despite the book's length - 650 pages - I was gripped to the end. 9780349112275 Joseph Bosham, self-styled third Viscount of Bosham, with a half-English Catholic priest for a father and an Italian brothel-keeper for a mother, educated in mathematics, music and philosophy but with a natural gift for languages and depravity, is born in the 1790s and settled in a turbulent Spain just as the great armies of Wellington and Napoleon vie for supremacy during the Peninsular Wars. Seduced by the glamour of battle little Jose reluctantly serves as courier, linguist, pimp and mascot to survive.

Now some years ago I read and enjoyed the author's 'The Last English King' so I approached this with high hopes but whilst I can't say I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, it is a rather long and there some fairly dull philosophical rants therein, I generally found myself engrossed in it. This was largely due to the unreliable and amusing voice of the narrator, the eponymous Joseph, who was not unlike the wonderful Flashman without all the womanising, but also the evocation of a period of history which previously I knew very little about but felt that Rathbone captured without getting too bogged down in details.

On the whole this novel with some fine characters and adventures but also one that doesn't take itself too seriously. A book that can be enjoyed as an old-fashioned good boys' own story, but also one that encourage further research into the historical background behind it. 9780349112275 This book was written in the 1970s but reads like a mix of Cervantes, Henry Fielding and Laurence Sterne. As it takes place during the wars in Spain between Napoleon and Wellington I wasn't surprised by how much time is spent on battlefields and travelling to avoid them but there was very little dialogue which made it hard going at times. I am not surprised it was shortlisted for the Booker prize. 9780349112275 Delightful and intelligent picaresque novel that gives images from Goya, praise for the Duke of Wellington, and an informed critique of both Enlightenment & Romantic world=views 9780349112275 This is my first Julian Rathbone, who is well-known but probably less so for this early but nevertheless Booker-nominated tome. Based on 'Joseph' I would read more, but not in a hurry. This 650+ page novel felt longer than the Napoleonic Wars, and in its picaresque pursuit of its buffoonish protagonist, essentially a rehash of Cervantes's 'Don Quixote'... only set 200 years later.

The map in the frontispiece sets out the book's historical credentials from the outset. The dates of battles and names of generals are deliberately made to sit uneasily with the unreliability of Joseph's narrative voice. In one chapter, he continually arrests his account of mistreatment by gypsies, as he confesses each time to fabrication. His father is a man of the Enlightenment guided by Reason, but like his tattered books at the end, we learn to mistrust the autobiography Rathbone's Joseph leaves us.

The sense of disappointment and pathos match Cervantes's for Don Quixote. In both cases it was purely the unexpurgated bulk of the books, and their tendency to fat rather than muscle, that pegged both back to three stars.

My review must reflect personal enjoyment more than literary merit, and undoubtedly score highly on the latter. Even so this was a little one note for too long To quote Roxette's 'Greatest Hits' - Don't Bore Us, Get to the Chorus. 9780349112275

Brilliant recreation of the Peninsula war. Joseph By Julian Rathbone

This would have been improved by drastic editing. An interesting premise with some amusing parts but sooooo much boredom 9780349112275 tedius... 9780349112275 One of his best. 9780349112275 Long but worth it, suitably vague in places but colourful and enjoyable. 9780349112275 Given the conceit, the setting and the cast of characters, this has no right to be as tedious as it is. 9780349112275

CHARACTERS Joseph By Julian Rathbone