- Author: Alex Rutherford
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Hardcover: 448 pages
- Publisher: Hachette India (3 December 2018)
- Language: English
BLURB as on Goodreads
It is 1744, and Nicholas Ballantyne, a young Scotsman dreaming of a life as laird of his ancestral estate finds himself quite unexpectedly on the Winchester, a ship bound for Hindustan, seeking to begin a new life as a ‘writer’ on the rolls of the British East India Company. On board, he meets the spirited and mercurial Robert Clive, determined – at whatever cost – to make a fortune in a land of opportunity.
Over the years that follow, their friendship sees many twists and turns as Clive’s restless hunger for wealth and power takes him from being a clerk to a commander in the Company’s forces, masterminding plans to snuff out rival French interests in Hindustan and eventually leading the company forces to victory at Plassey, the prelude to nearly two centuries of foreign rule in Hindustan.
Brilliantly crafted, and bringing to life the momentous events that shook India in the mid-eighteenth century, Fortune’s Soldier is an epic tale of a fascinating era by a master storyteller.
One look at the cover and you get the impression that the book is about the forgotten battles and indeed, it a historical fiction dwelling on the bitter topic of British Invasion in India. Nevertheless, the cover is majestic and a title equally complimenting.
India has been a complex or I should say, a diverse land. It is an ancient society far older than any other civilization. The hunger for power, however transitory, brought it to break into shambles. It was its thirst for wealth and fortune that caused it to lie broken beyond repair. What happened years ago has not been able to wipe out from our stories and will continue to remind us that we weaken ourselves by fighting with each other. And this is where the foreigners always found our Achilles heel.
Fortune’s Soldier is an apt description of our past which we always think about ruefully. It vividly paints the picture of how the British found their way into our motherland through the passage of trade and settled here to establish their supremacy. They made us slaves in our own country. And we let them rule over us for we were blinded by the lust for authority and were driven by rivalries and shifting allegiances.
Nicholas is the protagonist of the book who has been sent to Hindustan by his loving Uncle in order to make his fortune. As soon as he lands in Calcutta, something strikes him and it remains as he decided to stick with Hindustan for all his life. His living in Hindustan, his struggles, his friendship with Clive and Tuhin Singh, his missions, his principles, his grief – everything is intertwined in the well-put narrative of the book. What charmed me the most was the free-flowing narration which did fell flat at some points but managed to pique my interest with some fascinating turn of events. I was drawn towards the book right in the beginning and lost in the middle of the book for I felt it was dragging more than necessary. However, I guess a lot of detail has to be there because history has been a boring subject for the time immemorial. To connect the book to the readers, it is important if they could imagine each thing in their head and read between the lines.
The book points out the endurance of Hindustanis and yet their foolhardy nonsensical hunger for power which got them to lick the dust. It has at its focus the fight between British and French who were equally interested in securing a safe trade position in India. None wanted to fall short and none wanted to share even. This battle has had the major years of Nicholas who meanwhile fell in love – a very tender love- and lost it before he could fully revel in its glory. He is shown to be a controlled man when he doesn’t let his lust overpower his wits in bringing a French lady to his bed. He is a man of principles which he values throughout his life. He is a man of relationships he bears with utmost carefulness and affection.
Robert Clive who was the dearest friend of Nicholas proves to us that if we wish for something, we could have it. If opportunities don’t knock at your door, create them on your own. As he says, “If chances don’t come quickly enough, I’ll engineer them.” And so he does and thus goes on winning the battle of Plassey. A lovely character he has been. For Indians, their Pride came before their fall. And this changed the course of their destiny forever.
What caused me a little headache was numerous characters which didn’t seem to stay in my head for long. But what excited me was their development as it brought them alive with every incident that followed.
Agreed, this book is pretty thick and difficult to carry on due to its relevance to history but trust me, hold on to it and you would totally love reading it.
MY RATING: 4.5/ 5
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*Thank you Hachette India for providing me a review copy.*