Edward Wilson has crafted another winner with "SOUTH ATLANTIC REQUIEM."
William Catesby, the redoubtable and resourceful veteran MI-6 agent, polyglot, and ever faithful servant of Her Majesty's Government, takes center stage once more. The time is 1979. A new Conservative government has taken power in Britain and is set on shaking things up. And that entails substantial cuts in the defense budget.
There is also a military dictatorship in Argentina eyeing a group of offshore islands -- the Falklands -- that have been under British sovereignty for close to 150 years. The Argentines have long regarded these islands as theirs - las Malvinas. But they have been reluctant to challenge British power for decades. That is, until the change of government in Whitehall. The Prime Minister - Margaret Thatcher - doesn't regard the Falklands as vital to Britain's strategic interests. There are some low level talks between the British and Argentines that hint at putting into place a gradual turnover of the Falklands to Argentina.
Catesby has been made head of operations in South America. Events between 1979 and early 1982 lead to a simmering crisis between Whitehall and Buenos Aires. After Thatcher has ordered the withdrawal of a Royal Navy ship (HMS Endurance) -- which had been patrolling the waters surrounding the Falklands -- the ruling Junta in Argentina busies itself with making plans to seize the Falklands. Catesby has -- through the use in Buenos Aires of a young, savvy, assertive Cambridge graduate (Fiona Stewart - who also displays a facility for languages) he had hired as a part-time agent to keep tabs on the Junta -- kept his ears alert to subtle changes in the political climate. Miss Stewart for a time provides MI-6 with valuable intelligence -- through contacts she has developed among some members of the Argentine government and military (many of them young officers, one of whom - a naval aviator and champion polo player - she falls in love with; the feelings are mutual). But the situation changes and Catesby's intelligence source fades to black --- for reasons that one can discover as the story progresses.
The novel goes on to provide some very revealing insights into how it was that Argentina and Britain went to war over the Falklands in the Spring of 1982. As someone who lived through that time and has some memory of that conflict, I very much enjoyed the way Wilson showed how events unfolded from a variety of personalities and perspectives in the UK, Europe, South America, and Washington.
All in all, "SOUTH ATLANTIC REQUIEM" was a thoroughly satisfying, exciting, and sobering Cold War novel.
The House with a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs is the first in a series which (mainly) revolve around a boy named Lewis Barnavelt and his adventures living with his uncle who is a magician. I originally searched this book out because I saw the trailer for the upcoming film and got that familiar itch of "I must go to there". Then I found out that Edward Gorey was the illustrator and that clinched the deal. Bellairs blends mystery and magic to tell the story of a lonely little boy who is suddenly orphaned and thrust into the custody of a man he has never met before. Uncle Jonathan is unlike any person that Lewis has ever known and that's not only because he's a magician. Uncle Jonathan's house (a character in its own right) contains a mystery that all starts with the man who originally owned the property and who was himself a magician...a dark wizard in fact. With the combined forces of Uncle Jonathan and their neighbor (and witchy friend) Mrs. Zimmerman they begin a desperate search for the source of a mysterious ticking inside the walls of their house because they are certain it was magicked their by the original owner who no doubt created it with nefarious intentions. Our main character, Lewis, is at the same time struggling to fit in at his new school and while trying to impress his new friend he finds himself going against his uncle's wishes and trying a little magic of his own. Surely nothing could go wrong... This was a strong start to a series which began in 1973 and ran until 2008. [A/N: Books 4-6 were written after the death of John Bellairs from outlines and notes he left behind. The remainder were written entirely by Brad Strickland.] This book was a solid 8/10 but (as a heads up) I'll be reviewing 2 & 3 in the not too distant future and they didn't quite live up to this first book.
Check out the trailer which initially piqued my interest: The House with a Clock in its Walls.
|One of the Edward Gorey illustrations from inside the book. [Source: Pinterest]|
What's Up Next: The Outsider by Stephen King
What I'm Currently Reading: Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel
Another poor selection among my classics. First time I've seriously considered quitting a book. But I can't. However, I can, and will, shelve it for awhile. Will continue it in a couple of weeks after my trip.
Why? It's boring and repetitive. Just the same descriptions of various places he visited in Asia. Inhabitants religion, currency, ruler, and wildlife. Very factual. It's not really a novel. And, as they are all the old names for cities and countries (?), I'm usually lost.
One reviewer said his copy saved him as it had a glossary of the names, along with their current ones, but alas, my copy does not.
It's a very OLD travel novel of facts. Marco go home.