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Mr. American (1980)

av George MacDonald Fraser

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
254680,369 (3.67)2
Repackaged to tie-in with hardback publication of 'The Reavers' and to appeal to a new generation of George MacDonald Fraser fans, 'Mr American' is a swashbuckling romp of a novel. Mark Franklin came from the American West to Edwardian England with two long-barrelled .44s in his baggage and a fortune in silver in the bank. Where he had got it and what he was looking for no one could guess, although they wondered - at Scotland Yard, in City offices, in the glittering theatreland of the West End, in the highest circles of Society (even King Edward was puzzled) and in the humble pub at Castle Lancing. Tall dark and dangerous, soft spoken and alone, with London at his feet and a dark shadow in his past, he was a mystery to all of them, rustics and royalty, squires and suffragettes, the women who loved him and the men who feared and hated him. He came from a far frontier in another world, yet he was by no means a stranger... even old General Flashman, who knew men and mischief better than most, never guessed the whole truth about "Mr American".… (mer)
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» Se även 2 omnämnanden

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Ooo, this is a hard one to rate.

I loved the first part - Mr American's arrival in England, instantly falling over 3 beautiful women, having a meet-cute with the king, the teasing flashbacks to his life in the Wild West, the reappearance of Curry... I was eating it up.

And then we skipped 3 years in as many pages, his marriage is in crisis and we're bogged down in the Irish home rule problem. What happened?

I could genuinely believe that Fraser died halfway through writing this and the latter half was reconstructed from notes found in his desk after his passing.

This one won't be staying on my shelves. ( )
  a-shelf-apart | Nov 19, 2019 |
"And to those imagined people on the road away, so very long ago, who had travelled so far and so well, so that he might travel back, and in the way of things, set out again." (pg. 550)

The cover of George MacDonald Fraser's novel Mr. American includes one line cherry-picked from a review in The Times, which states: 'Every page is sheer unadulterated pleasure.' Even though Fraser is my favourite writer – and to date I've read twelve Flashman novels, two memoirs, one film history, one complete collection of McAuslan stories and two more novels without encountering anything less than sheer unadulterated pleasure – I was still sceptical about this line. Despite knowing and loving Fraser's work as I did, I did not see how The Times' assertion could be true of every page for near-600 pages. But it is.

The writing is joyous, with Fraser's typical mastery of free-flowing prose that nevertheless contains lots of rich detail and unhurried diversions into interesting avenues that never cause drag to the pacing. The characters are as realized and lifelike as they always are, and whilst Mr. American is not a comic novel like many of his others Fraser finds plenty of easy humour. The plot is sweeping and yet meticulous, staging everything from Western gunfights to playing bridge with the King, and much more besides. Fraser even finds room for his most cherished literary creation, Harry Flashman, still the shameless rogue even at ninety years old. And it's not just a token cameo as I thought it might be: Flashy not only makes a number of appearances throughout but often stays for supper, treating us to his inimitable outspoken views and behaviour. As Fraser says, he bestrides this novel "like an elderly and debauched eagle, imbibing heroic quantities of champagne without visible effect, and occasionally making unnerving pronouncements." (pg. 195). For those of us who have devoured all the Flashman novels, further in-depth encounters with England's finest is like manna from heaven. First-rate indeed!

It's is not a book without its faults; it is longer than it needs to be, though Fraser's indulgences and divergences are always fascinating (with the possible exception of the extended game of bridge). Our protagonist Mark Franklin's encounters with upper-class British society and all the "affectation, and snobbery, and brittle emptiness, all the cruelty and shallowness and false values" that compose it (pg. 562) get you heated up, although they are no doubt designed to. But the plot is rather circular, which means stoking the reader's emotions becomes rather unnecessary when there is no payoff, tragic or otherwise. The ambiguous ending also seems unfair to readers who have invested in nearly 600 pages and have come to care about the characters.

That said, Fraser is a master of storytelling and though there is no overt conclusion or theme or closure for the reader to digest, Mr. American reminded me in many ways of the books of Charles Dickens, where the message is intangible and is revealed solely through the mood and tone of the exquisite storytelling. We really get a sense of time and place, of how the complacent moral bankruptcy of the Edwardian era collapsed into the reckoning of the First World War. Fraser appropriates that Dickensian knack of making setting and plot itself transport us into a new constructed world, where what the reader learns and understands depends entirely on how much they observe and invest. There's more to Mr. American than just basking in ars gratia artis, but if you want to bask decadently in prose there is scarcely any finer than that of George MacDonald Fraser. ( )
  MikeFutcher | Jun 26, 2016 |
Mr. Fraser doesn't shine in this story about love betrayed. But there is a pretty good section relating to this truth, that your past will catch up with you, for good or ill. We do discover what did, happen to Flashy, and Fraser gets to use his research into the Hole-in-the Wall gang.
This book did improve on the reread. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Oct 8, 2013 |
I've read this novel three times and love it more every time. The way it begins and ends, with Mr American's life and adventures in between, is so well done. MacDonald's wit, teasing humour, and sheer style of writing is so very, very good. ( )
  Ann_V_Roberts | Jun 25, 2013 |
I so thoroughly enjoyed the first half of this book that I couldn't put it down. From the halfway point though, I found the plot slower and unsatisfying in light of this novel's early promise. Frazer does develop some fantastic opportunities for conflict and crisis around the central character, Mark Franklin, any one of which might have provided tension and excitement enough to compel a reader throughout the story. However he also created, in Mark Franklin, a character so sensible and self-contained as to ensure that every crisis is tackled head-on with quick, calm efficiency. In short, the key events fail to grip as they might have done. That said, Mr American is still well worth reading for Frazer's impecable depiction of Edwardian England and its people, and a cameo appearance by an aged Flashman (in his nineties) is a real treat. ( )
  MrsPlum | Aug 3, 2010 |
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Repackaged to tie-in with hardback publication of 'The Reavers' and to appeal to a new generation of George MacDonald Fraser fans, 'Mr American' is a swashbuckling romp of a novel. Mark Franklin came from the American West to Edwardian England with two long-barrelled .44s in his baggage and a fortune in silver in the bank. Where he had got it and what he was looking for no one could guess, although they wondered - at Scotland Yard, in City offices, in the glittering theatreland of the West End, in the highest circles of Society (even King Edward was puzzled) and in the humble pub at Castle Lancing. Tall dark and dangerous, soft spoken and alone, with London at his feet and a dark shadow in his past, he was a mystery to all of them, rustics and royalty, squires and suffragettes, the women who loved him and the men who feared and hated him. He came from a far frontier in another world, yet he was by no means a stranger... even old General Flashman, who knew men and mischief better than most, never guessed the whole truth about "Mr American".

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