Friday, 15 October 1999

George MacDonald Fraser: Mr American (1980)

Edition: Pan
Review number: 360

In what was not quite a break from his Flashman series, Fraser wrote this novel about an American, Mark Franklin, who struck it rich and travelled to England, to the village his family had emigrated from many years previously. In 1909, despite being both American and nouveau riche, Franklin is able to move in the highest circles of English society, helped by amusing Edward VII at a chance meeting.

As in the Flashman books, Fraser includes a lot of historical detail in his narrative, including tales of the Wild Bunch, the Curragh mutiny, the music hall, the behaviour of suffragettes at the Royal Academy exhibition. And Flashman, at ninety still chasing pretty girls, makes several appearances.

The main reason that Mr American is not as good as the Flashman series is because of the blandness of the main character. I suspect that the realisation of this is the motivation for bringing Flashman into the story, to spice it up a bit. The Flashman novels contain almost all of Fraser's best work (I have an affection for Pyrates as well) and should probably be stuck to except by real fans.

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