blog tour, Book reviews, War fiction

Squadron Airborne by Elleston Trevor – Book Review

PUBLISHERS BLURB 

In the summer of 1940, the Battle of Britain rages in the skies over southern England. Nineteen-year-old Pilot Officer Peter Stuyckes arrives at RAF Westhill and is immediately put to the test. Based on the author’s own service as an RAF Flight Engineer,Squadron Airborne takes place over one unforgettable week that summer, depicting with intensity and brilliance the work of the many ground-crew and other staff as they support the Few in their fight against the Luftwaffe. The novel is published to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain in September 2020.

MY REVIEW 

Squadron Airborne is the story of the Battle Of Britain in 1940 and the people that took part in the air and on the ground.

Written shortly after the war, it uses the language of the time which gives this book its immense sense of realism, atmosphere and time and place.

There are also the precise details of the air battles, the planes and the time spent on the ground, it’s here the ground crew, responsible for keeping these planes flying, get the recognition they deserve.

There are some poignant moments and some humour too. A must read for anyone who enjoys reading of the history of WWII. 

Thank you to Random Things Tours for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and an ARC of Squadron Airborne.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Elleston Trevor (Trevor Dudley-Smith) was a prolific author who wrote under several pseudonyms, publishing over 100 books in his lifetime. He is perhaps best known for his Quiller series of spy novels and his 1964 novel The Flight of the Phoenix, which has been adapted into two Hollywood films.

Book reviews, War fiction

Warriors For The Working Day by Peter Elstob – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

‘Few other novels of the war describe the grinding claustrophobia, violence and lethal danger of being in a tank crew with the stark vividness of Peter Elstob. It’s possible to almost smell the fumes and sweat, while the intimate detail of operating such a beast and the camaraderie of the crew are utterly compelling. This is a forgotten classic that deserves to be read and read.’
JAMES HOLLAND
“If poetry was the supreme literary form of the First World War then, as if in riposte, in the Second World War, the English novel came of age. This wonderful series is an exemplary reminder of that fact. Great novels were written about the Second World War and we should not forget them.”
WILLIAM BOYD
In April 2020 IWM will publish two more novels in their Wartime Classics Series which was launched in September 2019 to great acclaim. The novels were all written either during or just after the Second World War and are currently out of print. Following the IWM’s commitment to tell the stories of those who experienced conflict first hand, each novel is written directly from the author’s own experience and takes the reader right into the heart of the battle.
Warriors for the Working Day follows one tank crew as they proceed from training in Aldershot to the beaches of Normandy, and on into the heart of a newly liberated Europe. Closely based on Peter Elstob’s own wartime experiences as a tank commander and radio operator, the novel brilliantly evokes the particular horror of tank warfare – the intense heat and the claustrophobia endured by so many, yet often overlooked.
Life within a British tank was very precarious as they were noticeably inferior to German armour, and were nicknamed Ronsons (cigarette lighters) by their crews as they lit ‘first time, every time.’ The novel also examines battle exhaustion in a way that a 21st century reader will recognise, with men and officers able to experience a certain amount, before fear becomes an overriding obsession.
Warriors for the Working Day is generally recognised as Peter Elstob’s greatest work. Originally published in 1960, it sold nearly a quarter of a million copies and remains one of the finest fictional depictions of life in a tank during the Second World War.
Alan Jeffreys, (Senior Curator, Second World War, Imperial War Museums) has written an introduction to each book that sets them in context and gives the wider historical background. He says, ‘researching the Wartime Classics has been one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve worked on in my years at IWM. It’s been very exciting rediscovering these fantastic novels and helping to bring them to the wider readership they so deserve’.

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MY REVIEW 

Based on Peter Elstob’s personal experience of tank warfare, Warriors For The Working Day is a tale of fear and the horrors of war.

It really captures the heat and aggression of a tank battle, mixed with the claustrophobia of being baked in a flammable tin can with a crew of men all battling their own demons, doubts and fear at the same time.

Incredibly compelling and a must read for any fan of classic war fiction.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour,  for the promotional materials and a copy of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Peter Elstob (1915 – 2002) was born in London but educated in New York and New Jersey when his family moved to the USA as a result of his father’s work. He spent a brief period at the University of Michigan and a short stint in the RAF. In 1936 he volunteered as a pilot in the Spanish Civil War on the Republican side and published his first novel in 1939, The Spanish Prisoner, based on his experiences in Spain. On the outbreak of the Second World War, he attempted to re-join the RAF but when he was turned down, volunteered for the 3rd Battalion, Royal Tank Regiment, where he served across Europe and in the Middle East. After the war, Elstob pursued a variety of ventures – he co-ran the Arts Theatre Club in London, founded an artistic and writer’s community in Mexico and attempted a trans-Atlantic balloon flight in 1958. However, his main success was the beauty mask, Yeast Pac, which he and his partner developed and marketed successfully for many years. He wrote several novels and a number of well received military histories, including Hitler’s Last Offensive (1971) about the Battle of the Bulge.
– ENDS –

ABOUT IWM
IWM (Imperial War Museums) tells the story of people who have lived, fought and died in conflicts involving Britain and the Commonwealth since the First World War.
Our unique collections, made up of the everyday and the exceptional, reveal stories of people, places, ideas and events. Using these, we tell vivid personal stories and create powerful physical experiences across our five museums that reflect the realities of war as both a destructive and creative force. We challenge people to look at conflict from different perspectives, enriching their understanding of the causes, course and consequences of war and its impact on people’s lives.
IWM’s five branches which attract over 2.5 million visitors each year are IWM London, IWM’s flagship branch that recently transformed with new, permanent and free First World War Galleries alongside new displays across the iconic Atrium to mark the Centenary of the First World War; IWM North, housed in an iconic award-winning building designed by Daniel Libeskind; IWM Duxford, a world renowned aviation museum and Britain’s best preserved wartime airfield; Churchill War Rooms, housed in Churchill’s secret headquarters below Whitehall; and the Second World War cruiser HMS Belfast.

Book reviews, War fiction

Patrol by Fred Majdalany – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

Patrol

Fred Madjalany

 

IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUMS TO PUBLISH TWO MORE NOVELS IN THEIR WARTIME CLASSICS SERIES

 

“When a man has been a soldier and seen action, he writes of war with true understanding, and with authority. When that man writes with wit, elegance and imagination, as Fred Majdalany does in PATROL, he produces a military masterpiece.”

ALLAN MALLINSON

 

“If poetry was the supreme literary form of the First World War then, as if in riposte, in the Second World War, the English novel came of age. This wonderful series is an exemplary reminder of that fact. Great novels were written about the Second World War and we should not forget them.”

WILLIAM BOYD

 

In April 2020 IWM will publish two more novels in their Wartime Classics Series which was launched in September 2019 to great acclaim. The novels were all written either during or just after the Second World War and are currently out of print. Following the IWM’s commitment to tell the stories of those who experienced conflict first hand, each novel is written directly from the author’s own experience and takes the reader right into the heart of the battle.

Set in 1943, Patrol is a short, intimate novel following a small group of men on a night-time patrol in the North African desert. Major Tim Sheldon, close to battle exhaustion, is unexpectedly asked to carry out the mission and this atmospheric, tense novel puts this so-called minor action centre stage, as over the course of the day and during the patrol itself, Sheldon reminisces about his time as a soldier, his own future, and what it means to confront fear.

 

Patrol was a bestseller when it was first published in 1953. Clearly autobiographical, it is based on Fred Madjalany’s own experiences in Tunisia as part of the North African campaign, in particular his command of a night patrol and his time in hospital when wounded. The fictional battalion in the novel is based on 2nd Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers into which Madjalany was commissioned in 1940. Infantry battalions such as this were constantly in action with little respite, and the officers were very young by peace time standards. The stress of battle aged them considerably. Madjalany’s wife Sheila Howarth wrote, ‘I believe in Patrol he was writing his epitaph’. He suffered a stroke in 1957 and died ten years later when the specialist commented ‘the war killed him.’

 

Alan Jeffreys, (Senior Curator, Second World War, Imperial War Museums) has written an introduction to each book that sets them in context and gives the wider historical background. He says, ‘researching the Wartime Classics has been one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve worked on in my years at IWM. It’s been very exciting rediscovering these fantastic novels and helping to bring them to the wider readership they so deserve’.
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MY REVIEW 

This is the story of men who fought in WWII. 

It’s not all guts and glory, but about the monotony of day to day life interspersed with the terror of a nighttime patrol. It tells of their thoughts and dreams of the men while they wonder if they will ever see home again.

The author really brings the tale to life and the experiences of the men are thoughtful and moving.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour,  for the promotional materials and an ARC of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Frederick Majdalany (1913 – 1967) was the son of a Manchester- based Lebanese family. His original first name was Fareed, which he changed to Frederick or Fred. He was also known as ‘Maj’. He worked as a journalist, drama critic and theatre publicist pre-war. He volunteered in 1939 and was commissioned in 1940, serving in North Africa and Italy. He was wounded at the Battle of Medjez-el-Bab, returning to the battalion five weeks later with the rank of captain, later promoted to major, and commanded a company. His unit landed at Taranto in September 1943, where he was awarded the Military Cross during the Italian campaign. In October 1944 he returned home to become an instructor at an officer cadet training unit, which he later commanded, until demobilization in November 1945. After the war Majdalany resumed his career as a journalist and also worked for the BBC on historical scripts for radio and TV. He published novels and military histories, all of which were very well received. He was also involved with International PEN. He died in 1967.

Book reviews, Psychlogical thriller, War fiction

All In Her Head by Nikki Smith – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

An emotionally charged suspense about the dark corners of a mother’s mind, perfect for fans of Erin Kelly and Louise Candlish.

A haunting and compelling book that shines a light on the darkest corners of the human psyche and makes us question our limits.

Alison is more alone than she’s ever been. She is convinced that her ex-husband Jack is following her. She is certain she recognises the strange woman who keeps approaching her in the canteen.

She knows she has a good reason to be afraid. She just can’t remember why.

Then the mention of one name turns her life upside down.

Alison feels like she’s losing her mind . . . but it could just lead her to the truth.
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MY REVIEW 

All In Her Head is the story of Alison who has amnesia after suffering a trauma in her past. 

She sees people who she thinks she knows but is worried one of them may have been responsible for her trauma. Her sense of fear and paranoia builds, as the reader begins to see the larger story, how Alison’s mental health is drawing her deeper into her fears.

With plenty of twists and surprises this unique thriller is so clever, utterly compelling and is a read in one sitting book. Brilliant.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour,  for the promotional materials and a free copy of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

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Nikki studied English Literature at University before pursuing a career in finance. She always had a passion for writing and in 2017 she applied for a Curtis Brown Creative writing course. Later that year she had a short story published and submitted the opening chapters of her novel to a competition where she won the opportunity to be mentored by the author Amanda Reynolds, and the rest was history. 

Book reviews, Non fiction, War fiction

A Young Gunner’s Story by Mark Spencer – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

“A humorous memoir depicting the trials and tribulations of a gunner serving in the Royal Army during the Cold War, the voices of which are often hidden . . . this is a real and bold view of Artillery life during the seventies and eighties” 

– Joseph Cartwright, ex-army writer and journalist 

When Mark Spencer began training for a career in the Royal Artillery he had no idea how much a life in the British Army would cost him. Having served several years as a gunner, he has experienced love, laughter, friendship, and loss on the front-line.

This is his story.

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MY REVIEW 

This starts with young Mark setting off to join The Royal Artillery. 

It tells his tale through basic training, learning how to polish books, make beds, lots of PT and training too, at the hands of the loud Sergeant to NATO exercises.. 

There’s a lot of humour and shocks like peeing on an electric fence!!!!!!!ouch.

There are some photos too which really adds to the story.

This is just the beginning of his life as a young gunner in the Royal Artillery in the 80’s. It’s an interesting inside look at the life of a new recruit and a very engaging read.

Thank you to Caroline Vincent and CazVin Books for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour,  for the promotional materials and a free copy of the ebook in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Mark Spencer served as a gunner in the Royal Artillery for the British Army, before settling down for a civilian life with his family somewhere in the UK.

Mark’s inspiration for A Young Gunner’s Story

I have been asked so many times by so many people, what it was like in the army having joined up at 16 as a junior leader, but more so when a TV programme was aired some years ago. People friends and family were interested in learning about my experiences. Recently that same unnamed programme was aired, and the lives of young recruits were once again put to the forefront of viewers minds. So I decided to put pen to paper and write about my time in the Royal Artillery. I also wanted to lay some myths to rest that are often depicted on TV and in film.

I wrote a close to fact book based on my first day of training until I qualified as a soldier, serving on the front line for a number of years, starting during the cold war. I wanted to give readers an insider’s view of army life; the camaraderie, the fear, the fun. Alongside the constant threat to life, the feeling you were sitting on a coiled spring, always prepared to jump into conflict.

I learned skills that will never leave me and met people I never saw again. Others I’ve remained in contact with, attending reunions and funerals. The regiment set me in good stead, the BOAR made me a man, the memories and skills were lifelong.

 

Amazon Author Page: author.to/MarkSpencer

 

Book info:

Pages: ​​144

Published: ​​Dec 1st (Dunraven Books)

ISBN (paperback):​9781693609008

ASIN (ebook):​​B07XYDPF3T

 

Buying links:

Paperback: ​​https://amzn.to/2qGA2sW

Ebook: ​​https://amzn.to/2sorOWV 

Book reviews, War fiction

The Women At Hitler’s Table by Rosella Postorino – Book Review. @Netgalley #TheWomenAtHitlersTable


PUBLISHERS BLURB 

A disturbing, powerful and beautifully written novel based on shockingly real events’ Christy Lefteri, author of The Beekeeper of Aleppo

The International Bestseller

Inspired by the powerful true story of Margot Wölk, this is a heartbreaking and gripping historical novel for fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz and The Beekeeper of Aleppo

East Prussia, 1943. Hitler hides away in the Wolfsshanze – his hidden headquarters. The tide is turning in the war and his enemies circle ever closer.

Ten women are chosen.

Ten women to taste his food and protect him from poison

Twenty-six-year-old Rosa has lost everything to this war. Her parents are dead. Her husband is fighting on the front line. Alone and scared, she faces the SS with nothing but the knowledge every bite might be her last.

Caught on the wrong side of history, how far is Rosa willing to go to survive?

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MY REVIEW 

In Germany during WWII, Hitler was afraid someone would try to poison his food to kill him. So, a group of 10 women are ‘recruited’ to be food tasters. They eat the same meals as Hitler, only one hour before, they are watched to see if any thing untoward happens…..

This is the tale of those women, based on the memories of a woman that was actually there, was one of these tasters. It is their stories, of their lives, families and the effects this war had on them all. 

Well written and incredibly thought provoking – just how far would you go to keep those close to you safe, to save your own life?

Thank you to the publishers, the author and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this for free. This is my honest and unbiased review. 

Book reviews, War fiction

Eight Hours From England by Anthony Quayle – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

Eight Hours from England by Anthony Quayle – A candid account of SOE operations in occupied Europe described by Andrew Roberts as ‘As well as being one of our greatest actors, Anthony Quayle was an intrepid war hero and his autobiographical novel is one of the greatest adventure stories of the Second World War. Beautifully written and full of pathos and authenticity, it brings alive the terrible moral decisions that have to be taken by soldiers under unimaginable pressures in wartime.’

Anthony Quayle was a renowned Shakespearean actor, director and film star and during the Second World War was a Special Operations Executive behind enemy lines in Albania.
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MY REVIEW

Major John Overton is a Special Operations Executive (SOE) and is posted to Nazi occupied Albania, to set up a new camp. He finds chaos, but with determination he tries to overcome the politics, the weather, the landscape and the Albanian people to get the camp ready. Were they really there to help ? Or impose the British way on a different culture?

An adventure story set in wartime, with all its horrors and is all the more remarkable as based on Anthony Quayle’s own experiences. Beautifully written and very moving at times. 

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour and for the promotional materials and a free copy of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review.
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ABOUT THE SERIES 

In September 2019, to mark the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, IWM will launch a wonderful new series with four novels from their archives all set during the Second World War – Imperial War Museums Wartime Classics.

Originally published to considerable acclaim, these titles were written either during or just after the Second World War and are currently out of print. Each novel is written directly from the author’s own experience and takes the reader right into the heart of the conflict. They all capture the awful absurdity of war and the trauma and chaos of battle as well as some of the fierce loyalties and black humour that can emerge in extraordinary circumstances. Living through a time of great upheaval, as we are today, each wartime story brings the reality of war alive in a vivid and profoundly moving way and is a timely reminder of what the previous generations experienced.

 The remarkable IWM Library has an outstanding literary collection and was an integral part of Imperial War Museums from its very beginnings. Alan Jeffreys, (Senior Curator, Second World War, Imperial War Museums) searched the library collection to come up with these four launch titles, all of which deserve a new and wider audience. He has written an introduction to each novel that sets them in context and gives the wider historical background and says, ‘Researching the Wartime Classics has been one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve worked on in my years at IWM. It’s been very exciting rediscovering these fantastic novels and helping to bring them to the wider readership they so deserve’.

Each story speaks strongly to IWM’s remit to tell the stories of those who experienced conflict first hand. They cover diverse fronts and topics – preparations for D-Day and the advance into Normandy; the war in Malaya; London during the Blitz and SOE operations in occupied Europe and each author – three men and a woman – all have fascinating back stories. These are Second World War novels about the truth of war written by those who were actually there.

 

ABOUT THE BOOKS

The Four titles are:

From the City, From the Plough by Alexander Baron – A vivid and moving account of preparations for D- Day and the advance into Normandy. Published in the 75th anniversary year of the D-Day landings, this is based on the author’s first-hand experience of D-Day and has been described by Antony Beevor as ‘undoubtedly one of the very greatest British novels of the Second World War.’

Alexander Baron was a widely acclaimed author and screenwriter and his London novels have a wide following. This was his first novel.

 

Trial by Battle by David Piper – A quietly shattering and searingly authentic depiction of the claustrophobia of jungle warfare in Malaya described by William Boyd as ‘A tremendous rediscovery of a brilliant novel. Extremely well-written, its effects are both sophisticated and visceral. Remarkable’, and VS Naipaul as ‘one of the most absorbing and painful books about jungle warfare that I have read’ and by Frank Kermode as ‘probably the best English novel to come out of the Second World War.’

David Piper was best known as director of the National Portrait Gallery, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The novel is based on his time serving with the Indian Army in Malaya where he was captured by the Japanese and spent three years as a POW. His son, Tom Piper, was the designer of the hugely successful Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation of ceramic poppies at the Tower of London to commemorate the First World War Centenary.

 

Eight Hours from England by Anthony Quayle – A candid account of SOE operations in occupied Europe described by Andrew Roberts as ‘As well as being one of our greatest actors, Anthony Quayle was an intrepid war hero and his autobiographical novel is one of the greatest adventure stories of the Second World War. Beautifully written and full of pathos and authenticity, it brings alive the terrible moral decisions that have to be taken by soldiers under unimaginable pressures in wartime.’

Anthony Quayle was a renowned Shakespearean actor, director and film star and during the Second World War was a Special Operations Executive behind enemy lines in Albania.

 

Plenty Under the Counter by Kathleen Hewitt – a murder mystery about opportunism and the black market set against the backdrop of London during the Blitz. ‘With a dead body on the first page and a debonair

 

Book reviews, War fiction

Trial By Battle by David Piper – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

Trial by Battle by David Piper – 

A quietly shattering and searingly authentic depiction of the claustrophobia of jungle warfare in Malaya described by William Boyd as ‘A tremendous rediscovery of a brilliant novel. 

Extremely well-written, its effects are both sophisticated and visceral. Remarkable’, and VS Naipaul as ‘one of the most absorbing and painful books about jungle warfare that I have read’ and by Frank Kermode as ‘probably the best English novel to come out of the Second World War.’

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MY REVIEW

This tells the tale of Second Lieutenant Alan Mart, only 21 and posted to India, and the loud, overbearing Lieutenant, Acting Captain Sam Holl. Alan is being put through training and Holl believes War makes a man, but Mart is not exactly the warrior type.

Holl is a hard drinking, loutish man who contracts malaria, but even that doesn’t stop him from getting on the ship as they are sent to fight the Japanese. Their training  certainly hasn’t prepared them for what coming……

An incredibly written, brutally honest tale of war and its effects on the men fighting, the boredom, constant fear and the horrors they see. Stunning and emotive. 

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour and for the promotional materials and a free copy of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

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David Piper was best known as director of the National Portrait Gallery, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The novel is based on his time serving with the Indian Army in Malaya where he was captured by the Japanese and spent three years as a POW. His son, Tom Piper, was the designer of the hugely successful Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation of ceramic poppies at the Tower of London to commemorate the First World War Centenary.

 

ABOUT THE BOOKS

“If poetry was the supreme literary form of the First World War then, as if in riposte, in the Second World War, the English novel came of age. This wonderful series is an exemplary reminder of that fact. Great novels were written about the Second World War and we should not forget them.”

WILLIAM BOYD

‘It’s wonderful to see these four books given a new lease of life because all of them are classic novels from the Second World War written by those who were there, experienced the fear, anguish, pain and excitement first-hand and whose writings really do shine an incredibly vivid light onto what it was like to live and fight through that terrible conflict.’

JAMES HOLLAND, Historian, author and TV Presenter

‘The Imperial War Museum has performed a valuable public service by reissuing these four absolutely superb novels covering four very different aspects of the Second World War. ‘ ANDREW ROBERTS

In September 2019, to mark the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, IWM will launch a wonderful new series with four novels from their archives all set during the Second World War – Imperial War Museums Wartime Classics.

Originally published to considerable acclaim, these titles were written either during or just after the Second World War and are currently out of print. Each novel is written directly from the author’s own experience and takes the reader right into the heart of the conflict. They all capture the awful absurdity of war and the trauma and chaos of battle as well as some of the fierce loyalties and black humour that can emerge in extraordinary circumstances. Living through a time of great upheaval, as we are today, each wartime story brings the reality of war alive in a vivid and profoundly moving way and is a timely reminder of what the previous generations experienced.

 

The remarkable IWM Library has an outstanding literary collection and was an integral part of Imperial War Museums from its very beginnings. Alan Jeffreys, (Senior Curator, Second World War, Imperial War Museums) searched the library collection to come up with these four launch titles, all of which deserve a new and wider audience. He has written an introduction to each novel that sets them in context and gives the wider historical background and says, ‘Researching the Wartime Classics has been one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve worked on in my years at IWM. It’s been very exciting rediscovering these fantastic novels and helping to bring them to the wider readership they so deserve’.

Each story speaks strongly to IWM’s remit to tell the stories of those who experienced conflict first hand. They cover diverse fronts and topics – preparations for D-Day and the advance into Normandy; the war in Malaya; London during the Blitz and SOE operations in occupied Europe and each author – three men and a woman – all have fascinating back stories. These are Second World War novels about the truth of war written by those who were actually there.

 

The Four titles are:

 

From the City, From the Plough by Alexander Baron – A vivid and moving account of preparations for D- Day and the advance into Normandy. Published in the 75th anniversary year of the D-Day landings, this is based on the author’s first-hand experience of D-Day and has been described by Antony Beevor as ‘undoubtedly one of the very greatest British novels of the Second World War.’

 

Alexander Baron was a widely acclaimed author and screenwriter and his London novels have a wide following. This was his first novel.

 

Trial by Battle by David Piper – A quietly shattering and searingly authentic depiction of the claustrophobia of jungle warfare in Malaya described by William Boyd as ‘A tremendous rediscovery of a brilliant novel. Extremely well-written, its effects are both sophisticated and visceral. Remarkable’, and VS Naipaul as ‘one of the most absorbing and painful books about jungle warfare that I have read’ and by Frank Kermode as ‘probably the best English novel to come out of the Second World War.’

David Piper was best known as director of the National Portrait Gallery, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The novel is based on his time serving with the Indian Army in Malaya where he was captured by the Japanese and spent three years as a POW. His son, Tom Piper, was the designer of the hugely successful Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation of ceramic poppies at the Tower of London to commemorate the First World War Centenary.

 

Eight Hours from England by Anthony Quayle – A candid account of SOE operations in occupied Europe described by Andrew Roberts as ‘As well as being one of our greatest actors, Anthony Quayle was an intrepid war hero and his autobiographical novel is one of the greatest adventure stories of the Second World War. Beautifully written and full of pathos and authenticity, it brings alive the terrible moral decisions that have to be taken by soldiers under unimaginable pressures in wartime.’

 

Anthony Quayle was a renowned Shakespearean actor, director and film star and during the Second World War was a Special Operations Executive behind enemy lines in Albania.

 

Plenty Under the Counter by Kathleen Hewitt – a murder mystery about opportunism and the black market set against the backdrop of London during the Blitz. ‘With a dead body on the first page and a debonair

  

RAF pilot as the sleuth, this stylish whodunit takes you straight back to Blitzed London and murder most foul. Several plausible suspects, a femme fatale, witty dialogue, memorable scenes and unexpected twists – it boasts everything a great whodunit should have, and more. Andrew Roberts.

 

Kathleen Hewitt was a British author and playwright who wrote more than 20 novels in her lifetime. She was part of an artistic set in 1930’s London which included Olga Lehman and the poet Roy Campbell.

 

Book reviews, War fiction

From The City, From The Plough by Alexander Baron – Book Review

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

In September 2019, to mark the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, IWM will launch a wonderful new series with four novels from their archives all set during the Second World War – Imperial War Museums Wartime Classics.

Originally published to considerable acclaim, these titles were written either during or just after the Second World War and are currently out of print. Each novel is written directly from the author’s own experience and takes the reader right into the heart of the conflict. They all capture the awful absurdity of war and the trauma and chaos of battle as well as some of the fierce loyalties and black humour that can emerge in extraordinary circumstances. Living through a time of great upheaval, as we are today, each wartime story brings the reality of war alive in a vivid and profoundly moving way and is a timely reminder of what the previous generations experienced.

The remarkable IWM Library has an outstanding literary collection and was an integral part of Imperial War Museums from its very beginnings. Alan Jeffreys, (Senior Curator, Second World War, Imperial War Museums) searched the library collection to come up with these four launch titles, all of which deserve a new and wider audience. He has written an introduction to each novel that sets them in context and gives the wider historical background and says, ‘Researching the Wartime Classics has been one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve worked on in my years at IWM. It’s been very exciting rediscovering these fantastic novels and helping to bring them to the wider readership they so deserve’.

Each story speaks strongly to IWM’s remit to tell the stories of those who experienced conflict first hand. They cover diverse fronts and topics – preparations for D-Day and the advance into Normandy; the war in Malaya; London during the Blitz and SOE operations in occupied Europe and each author – three men and a woman – all have fascinating back stories. These are Second World War novels about the truth of war written by those who were actually there.

 

The Four titles are:

 

From the City, From the Plough by Alexander Baron

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– A vivid and moving account of preparations for D- Day and the advance into Normandy. Published in the 75th anniversary year of the D-Day landings, this is based on the author’s first-hand experience of D-Day and has been described by Antony Beevor as ‘undoubtedly one of the very greatest British novels of the Second World War.’

Alexander Baron was a widely acclaimed author and screenwriter and his London novels have a wide following. This was his first novel.

 

Trial by Battle by David Piper – A quietly shattering and searingly authentic depiction of the claustrophobia of jungle warfare in Malaya described by William Boyd as ‘A tremendous rediscovery of a brilliant novel. Extremely well-written, its effects are both sophisticated and visceral. Remarkable’, and VS Naipaul as ‘one of the most absorbing and painful books about jungle warfare that I have read’ and by Frank Kermode as ‘probably the best English novel to come out of the Second World War.’

David Piper was best known as director of the National Portrait Gallery, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The novel is based on his time serving with the Indian Army in Malaya where he was captured by the Japanese and spent three years as a POW. His son, Tom Piper, was the designer of the hugely successful Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation of ceramic poppies at the Tower of London to commemorate the First World War Centenary.

 

Eight Hours from England by Anthony Quayle – A candid account of SOE operations in occupied Europe described by Andrew Roberts as ‘As well as being one of our greatest actors, Anthony Quayle was an intrepid war hero and his autobiographical novel is one of the greatest adventure stories of the Second World War. Beautifully written and full of pathos and authenticity, it brings alive the terrible moral decisions that have to be taken by soldiers under unimaginable pressures in wartime.’

Anthony Quayle was a renowned Shakespearean actor, director and film star and during the Second World War was a Special Operations Executive behind enemy lines in Albania.

 

Plenty Under the Counter by Kathleen Hewitt – a murder mystery about opportunism and the black market set against the backdrop of London during the Blitz. ‘With a dead body on the first page and a debonair

RAF pilot as the sleuth, this stylish whodunit takes you straight back to Blitzed London and murder most foul. Several plausible suspects, a femme fatale, witty dialogue, memorable scenes and unexpected twists – it boasts everything a great whodunit should have, and more. Andrew Roberts.

Kathleen Hewitt was a British author and playwright who wrote more than 20 novels in her lifetime. She was part of an artistic set in 1930’s London which included Olga Lehman and the poet Roy Campbell.

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MY REVIEW

This review relates to From The City, From The Plough by Alexander Baron.

This is a fictional tale of the D-Day landings, but based on Alexander Baron’s own experiences.

It tells of the Fifth Battalion, Wessex regiment, from the perspectives of both the officers and the soldiers. These men are from different backgrounds, city dwellers and farmers and everything in between.

There are men who relish the thought of war and those who just want it all over, so they can return to a ‘normal’ life…..their wives and family.

From the constant training before being posted to the extremes of boredom and fear, fatigue and death during the many, many battles. The day to day bravery of these men cannot be underestimated what they did, saw and experienced is something so difficult to imagine these days.

The characters are so well described, from mad Major Maddison to Tom Smith you will be emotionally attached to these men (some more than others though) and willing them to survive the horrors of war……

I’ve not read anything that captures the human effects of war since I read Dispatches by Michael Herr. An absolute masterpiece.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour and for the promotional materials and a free copy of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review.

 

IWM

IWM (Imperial War Museums) tells the story of people who have lived, fought and died in conflicts involving Britain and the Commonwealth since the First World War.

Our unique collections, made up of the everyday and the exceptional, reveal stories of people, places, ideas and events. Using these, we tell vivid personal stories and create powerful physical experiences across our five museums that reflect the realities of war as both a destructive and creative force. We challenge people to look at conflict from different perspectives, enriching their understanding of the causes, course and consequences of war and its impact on people’s lives.

IWM’s five branches which attract over 2.5 million visitors each year are IWM London, IWM’s flagship branch that recently transformed with new, permanent and free First World War Galleries alongside new displays across the iconic Atrium to mark the Centenary of the First World War; IWM North, housed in an iconic award-winning building designed by Daniel Libeskind; IWM Duxford, a world renowned aviation museum and Britain’s best preserved wartime airfield; Churchill War Rooms, housed in Churchill’s secret headquarters below Whitehall; and the Second World War cruiser HMS Belfast.

IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUMS LAUNCH FIRST WARTIME CLASSICS SERIES

Alexander Baron, David Piper, Anthony Quayle, Kathleen Hewitt

Published on 26 September 2019

#WartimeClassics £8.99 each

“If poetry was the supreme literary form of the First World War then, as if in riposte, in the Second World War, the English novel came of age. This wonderful series is an exemplary reminder of that fact. Great novels were written about the Second World War and we should not forget them.”

WILLIAM BOYD

‘It’s wonderful to see these four books given a new lease of life because all of them are classic novels from the Second World War written by those who were there, experienced the fear, anguish, pain and excitement first-hand and whose writings really do shine an incredibly vivid light onto what it was like to live and fight through that terrible conflict.’

JAMES HOLLAND, Historian, author and TV Presenter

 

‘The Imperial War Museum has performed a valuable public service by reissuing these four absolutely superb novels covering four very different aspects of the Second World War. ‘ ANDREW ROBERTS