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Found 7 results

  1. There are masses of books about the Blitz, Churchill and WWII in general but not like this one. The main focus here is the first year of Churchill's leadership, jumps quickly to The American's entering the war and then ends. What makes this book so different is that Larson is a master storyteller of non fiction and makes it read like a thriller. He says in the acknowledgements that he's always been fascinated by how people like Churchill managed to balance desperate ad dire affairs of state with the normal problems of daily life so much of the book is taken up with the sort of thing that normally gets left out of serious history books such as his private secretary's unrequited love affair, the 17 year old Mary Churchill's flirtations with RAF officers and her later engagement, much disapproved of by her parents. Some readers might find all this trival, I love it, I always want to know about the people and it makes the reality of what it must have been like living then so very real: you did live for the moment and you understand why reactuions that would seem awful in hindsight - being irritated by the delay caused a bomb crater rather than worrying about who might have been hurt became natural. Larson splits the narrative between England and Germany on day by day basis and doesn't foreshadow anything. We might know what happened in the big picture, but Goring, Churchill, Hitler, Max Beaverbrook et all didn't. The reader lives in their present as events unfold, and sometimes gets taken as much by surprise as the main protagonists were. I did learn some new facts about the war but the main thing I've really taken from the book is a sense of what it must have been like to live then. An excellent read.
  2. Review of The Burnt-Out Town of Miracles by Roy Jacobsen, translated by Don Shaw and Don Bartlett This novel is set in the eastern parts of Finland during the Winter War, part of World War II where USSR attacked Finland. When the Finnish army are evacuating the people that lived in Suomussalmi region, the main character, a logger, Timo refuses to leave. With the Russian's arriving, they treat Timo with suspicion (rightfully so). As a prisoner of the Russians, he is assigned to work with their loggers (who themselves are prisoners or de-facto prisoners). While he helps the Red Army's loggers, it seems to me that he tries to thwart the efforts of the Red Army by not doing much work. This is a really splendidly written (and translated) novel, Jacobsen writes some great sentences. This novel like the others of his that have been translated to English shows depth and a lot of humanity and spirit. Not my favourite novel of his but a very good read. * * * *
  3. review of The Secret War by Max Hastings Max Hasting book deals with as the full title suggests spies, codes and guerillas during world war II, it's in the title, people Between the stories of the spies and missions, there is also some op-ed by Hastings himself It does lose a star for Hastings' description of other neutral states being "much more important" than Ireland. That gave my ego a hammering . No seriously, I jest. Overall this is an interesting read. There is a lot of detail in it and I liked this book. I found it best as a novel to take in small chunks rather than reading it through because as seems a must with non-fiction, a slower reading speed is necessary. It does help how the book is divided. Needless to say some sections are more interesting and skip along faster than others * * * *
  4. Review of The Undertaking by Audrey Magee The book starts with a soldier on the eastern front getting married to a picture of a woman he doesn't know, for honeymoon leave and the same ceremony takes place in Germany When on honeymoon leave, meeting his wife for the first time and her family and then his father in law introducing him to the well connected Doctor that the father-in-law does work for and in turn during his honeymoon leave, he works for (early scene is breaking into a house of Jewish people). The soldier wants to return to his teaching job after Germany triumphs over Russia easily while the father-in-law has other plans, namely planting to the farm land that they need to feeds the expanding German family. There is the opulence of the doctors surrounding, the relative comforts of the new house (even getting a Russian maid as doing housework is below a German family now) of the wife's family (in confiscated property) and then the dire circumstance A novel of hope and loss there thereof, the bleakness and suffering brought on my overconfidence and the notion of invincibility There is alot to be said about the novel, i think it is reflective of the times it is set. Audrey Magee I believe has done a good job in the Berlin she created and the Eastern front she created but for me, I just found a little bit lacking to move it from 3 1/2 to 4 stars. It has its merits and is a good novel. *** 1/2
  5. Am reading about the Coast Watcher's network on the Solomon Islands in WWII - really amazing what these brave people did and endured. Alone on Guadalcanal. - Martin Clemens
  6. Right-o. Booker longlist or no, this one bored me. Pretty much every minute was excruciating tedium. On the plus side, Unexploded apparently conveys a very strong sense of time and place. It's true that Brighton in the early years of the war makes a pleasant change from inner city London or the middle of the English countryside. There is a feeling of trying to cling onto normal life; the restrictions and privations assumed initially to be temporary. We see the last of private petrol; the last onions; the last days on the beach. Piece by piece, normal life is dismantled and the luxuries of yesterday are turned into the necessities of tomorrow. The racecourse becomes an internment camp; metal is scrapped for bombs; the grammar school becomes a convalescence hospital. And in the midst of the chaos and falling bombs, Geoffrey and Evelyn have marital problems. Every now and then, things threaten to get interesting. There are mentions of Mosley and Lord Haw-Haw. Geoffrey and Evelyn's son Philip looks set to get involved in dangerous and exciting situations. There are a couple of suicide pills floating around. There's a mysterious German who turned up with tales of torture in a German KZ camp and a stack of forged banknotes. But ultimately they all fizzle out. Damp squibs, every one. I am told - but don't know from first hand experience - that the narrative style owes much to Virginia Woolf. Indeed La Woolf gets several mentions and a cameo role. Alas, the significance of this passed me by completely. Rather than elevating the ordinary into a great poetic vision, this novel seems to such the monumental down into the abyss of ordinariness. We don't care what happens to the lead characters. The only half-captivating character is Leah, a character very much of secondary importance. It's a pity. The writing is competent and flows well. The trouble is that, for this reader at least, Alison Macleod doesn't have anything very interesting to say. **000
  7. Yes I have read 'We Are At War', enjoyed it immensely. First came across the Mass Observation stuff when the Folio Society released a book similar to the We Are At War. Not read the other two books you mentioned, they sound interesting so will look out for them. I'm not so interested in the 1st war but I do have one of the Forgotten Voices books from that war which is sitting in my TBR pile. Have you been watching the TV programme Blitz Street? I've only the 1st two progs so far but found them very interesting. The reconstructions of the bombs on the terraced houses was disturbing when you think of people having to live through that night after night. I often wonder how we would fare as a nation today if we had to go through a similar type of war. Somehow I don't think we'd do so well.
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