SEVEN MEN OF GASCONY by R. F. Delderfield


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A 1949 novel set in the period of the Napoleonic Wars, which the late author published in the salad days of the mainly masculine-oriented historical novels (Kenneth Roberts, Nordhoff & Hall) before the thrust of the bosom superseded that of the bayonet. This is the familiar tale, utilized ad infinitum in WW II movies, of how a small close-knit group of infantrymen--in this case a section of seven French ""voltigers""--fight a long series of battles and die one by one, leaving a sole survivor. There's both a sneaking admiration for the noble endurance of men who fight on and on, and a passing recognition of the futility of wars staged by idols like Napoleon. The deaths match personalities: the best-liked member, a Jew, is crucified; the intellectual is shot by a firing squad for desertion; the gentle horse lover dies protecting his mount; and the grizzled sergeant dies in a last battle, while an enemy scavenger swipes the Medal of Honor from his corpse. And through it all--from the Danube to Moscow and back, a period of imprisonment in England, then gradual decimation--the caniniere Nicholette appears with her ""canteen,"" weds three times and is widowed twice. At the close, the old survivor has a dying dream of his comrades in Nicholette's wagon welcoming him aboard. You'll hate yourself in the morning, but Delderfield knew how to spring that sudsy tear. An old hat which wears well.

Pub Date: Aug. 15th, 1975
ISBN: 0935526978
Publisher: Simon & Schuster