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Zulu Hart by Saul David
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Zulu Hart (2009)

by Saul David

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This is written by a man more known for being a military historian (seen him on documentaries a few times - quite interesting & engaging) making a first foray into fiction. As you might expect, the military details are all down pat and it makes for an almost convincing read. George Hart is an outsider. He's the illegitimate son of a high ranking military official (not named) and an actress who is, herself, half Zulu, half Irish. Interesting mixture. He's been trough the standard British establishment upbringing, but while performing well was never one of the "in" crowd. He joins the army, but after a certain contretemps with the CO, resigns and heads to South Africa to make his fortune. He arrives just as the tensions in natal between the settlers and the Zulu are rising, and ends up in the local cavalry volunteers. He then gets closely involved in the invasion of Zululand, the battles of Isandlwana and Rourke's Drift.
having read (a while ago, I admit) a comprehensive account of the Zulu nation and the war with the British, the facts presented were pretty sound. The action was pacy and the whole thing hung together OK. the only thing you could quibble with was the way he seemed to get about almost too much, seemed to get into too much trouble and have just too many escapades. but that's a minor quibble when the rest of it worked OK as a story.
The acknowledgements at the end was interesting, as he owes a debt to Flashman - who I keep seeing in the library, but have never yet read. Maybe this will be the shove I need in that direction. ( )
  Helenliz | Dec 22, 2013 |
Throughout this book I struggled to get the image of Harry Flashman out of my mind so it seemed quite fitting to read at the end that Saul David had asked George McDonald Fraser advice before starting to write this book. Not that Hart is anything like Flashman.

This is said to be the first in a series about Hart and as such it was an intersting introduction but for me it was not overly convincing. Firstly the fast pace of the storytelling left little time to really develop the lead character and while I was pleased that he eventually did the right thing I was not really convinced that he was particularily honourable. He also seemed to do little actual fighting which left me wondering whether or not was particularily brave or merely lucky.

As a White Britain I found the machinations of the senior British officers before/during and after the war very uncomfortable to read as few of their actions had any sort of honour about them and were mainly about self-interest. But while I cannot fault the factual details about the story I did feel it a little lacking in actual battle action.

On the whole I enjoyed the author's writing style and found it an interesting introduction to both Hart and the Zulu conflict but I must also admit that I am yet to be convinced of this series overall quality. I wait to read the next installment with interest. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Feb 21, 2013 |
Saul David has a ways to go to transition from Historian to novelist.

We have a few problems with the book. As he is a lecturer professor in history I will let him have the benefit of the doubt when it comes to interjecting the way we now use Bombshell as if they did it the same in 1878.

But aside from those minor quibbles the major ones are that the hero is unbelievable, and certainly in too many places. As well as the interjection of history is right in our faces. We meet an officer of a regiment and we are given a clinical rundown of his uniform. We are shown a place and it is the elements of the picture in a list separated by commas instead of narrative description that flows. It stops us and makes it hard to think we are in a story and not in a history lesson.

I did say though that our hero, George Hart just was doing too much and not believable because of it. First he is the bastard son of the Duke of Cambridge, so the great grandson of king George III. Despite the author trying to be mysterious it is all too obvious that is what he has done. Then, he is also the grandson of a Zulu chief's daughter. So he is 1/4 black. A secret that one takes to the grave in Victorian England. They do not have our sensibilities that we do. If the hero is going to move up in society, be a part of any white society, he has to be white. Or have done something that will let him be in society and George hasn't done anything when we meet him. So my suspension of disbelief is gone.

And George likes telling everyone his secret. Certainly the officer corp is going to work well with him, not. But then George gets himself on Chelmsford staff, finds a reason to get stuck in at Isandlwana and surviving that, gets himself to Rorke's Drift as well. While we may have needed to see a Historical Novel dealing with these battles, George gets there in a far fetched notion, and then as the book with so much back story, again unbelievable, that it is time to end and we don't see the end of the Battle at the Drift, or the end of the campaign.

When I was a lad, before I became a historian, before I became a writer, ZULU became one of my favorite movies. While Saul David may know a firmer history than that of the movie, he did not go through with it and I sense that he also took some shortcuts to make his hero more heroic, at the cost of those who actually did the heroic actions in reality. You have to be a die hard lover of this period, I think to want to read the Hart Series. Taking some pointers from the Fonthill books of Wilcox which I find work better might have given George Hart a chance. His Zulu blood I think dooms him to ever be an effective part of the society of the times, and his english parent also ruins the credibility of the hero. ( )
  DWWilkin | Aug 6, 2012 |
Historical novels stand or fall on two qualities: story-telling and historical veracity. Saul David is an historian of impeccable credentials with a record of highly acclaimed books covering Victorian military events. His strengths are not just rooted in the detailed historical facts of India or South Africa, but in the entertaining way he presents these facts and reveals the people lyimg behind the reportage.

So what happened? Zulu Hart is a novel set against the background of the Zulu Wars. The story-telling is third rate. There are too many coincidences, too many ‘that was lucky!’ moments, too many ‘Wait! Aren’t you…?’ escapes from danger. This is a potboiler, at best.

What about the history? He wears his learning lightly in this novel. ( )
1 vote pierthinker | Jul 5, 2009 |
Can tell that this is a first outing as a novelist. Easy to read but not indepth enough with the descriptions or locations or events. Lacking any connection to Hart as the lead. Could have been a great opener to a set of novels but i'll struggle to pick another up. ( )
1 vote communityfriend | May 11, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0340953640, Paperback)

GEORGE HART just wants to serve his Queen and honour his family. It's not that simple. BASTARD He doesn't know his father, only that he's a pillar of the Establishment. His beloved mother is half Irish, half Zulu. ZULU In a Victorian society rife with racism and prejudice, George's dark skin spells trouble to his regimental commander. WARRIOR But George has soldiering in his blood - the only question is what he's really fighting for: ancestry or Empire. In the heat of battle he must decide ...

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:50:20 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A brilliant Victorian adventure set in the Zulu wars in South Africa, introducing series character George Hart, the illegitimate son of a top English general and a half Irish, half Zulu actress.

» see all 2 descriptions

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