Top positive review
A good read
June 7, 2016
Jack Windrush, the son of a general, thinks his life is all planned out. Like generations of his family before him, he will join an elite regiment in the British Army and go off to serve Queen and Country with - he hopes - distinction.
His life is disrupted, however, on the day that his father is buried.
And therein hangs a tale.
"Windrush" by Malcolm Archibald is what I would consider a "throwback novel" because it reminds me of the adventure stories I read as a youngster. Set in England, India, and Burma; it is a 19th Century story of dashed hopes, high adventure, and bloody battles with a teaspoon of romance thrown in for good measure. A little grittier than the novels I read as a youth, it nonetheless retains the spirit of those books. In "Windrush" as in those earlier books, the hero must come to grips with circumstance and prove himself not only courageous but honorable as he dashes from one precarious situation to another. Like those books I read so many years ago, the locales are exotic and the characters stop just short of being caricatures.
And like those books, the hero undergoes some significant changes in attitude as he ages not only physically but also emotionally.
I am not an historian so I cannot say for certain that Archibald's depiction of the British military midway through the 19th Century is accurate but it seems to be so. Likewise, I cannot say with any degree of certainty that the social mores of the time are accurately portrayed, but they seem to be correct given what I know of the hypocritical standards of behavior that exist today. I can, however, say for certain that Archibald's depiction of incompetent officers who place the blame for failed missions on subordinates is, sadly, accurate. Gallipoli, The Charge of the Light Brigade, Custer's Last Stand, Napoleon's ill-fated invasion of Russia... the list of poorly planned campaigns that failed despite the bravery of the ordinary soldiers who tried to carry out their orders is nearly endless and yet it was not the generals who paid the penalty for their incompetence.
Jack Windrush is a product of his times: Raised to be an officer, he is unprepared for life in the world outside his sheltered existence as the eldest son of a famous family. This is not to say he has not known suffering: Like many a young man in his social set he has been taught to endure pain both at home and in school. When he finds himself in a pub the day after his father's funeral, however, he quickly learns lessons that he was never taught at school or at home.
Archibald's narrative is fast-paced and his depiction of 19th Century combat in the Far East is colorful. The plot is fairly straightforward with a minor twist at the end that many readers will see coming. His secondary characters are not as well fleshed out as I would like - some of them seem like very interesting people and I would have liked to know more about them - but the author has given his readers some sense of who they are and why they behave as they do. Since this is billed as "Book 1" I can only hope that Archibald will give us a look into the back stories of some of Jack's companions in arms in future books.
An interesting story with plenty of action and an intriguing hero, "Windrush" is a good read and a book I can recommend for action/adventure fans and those who like historical fiction.