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Search tags: world-war-2
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text 2020-05-28 22:32
DNF @ just over 40%.
The Stories of Eva Luna - Isabel Allende,Cynthia Farrell,Samantha Desz,Timothy Andres Pabon,Gibson Frazier,Joy Osmanski

Meh.  There's nothing inherently wrong with these stories, but I'm interminably bored -- I just may be over Allende at this point.  So, I'm just going to cash in on the 40% I've listened to and roll again.

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review 2020-05-28 18:39
A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell
A Woman of No Importance - Sonia Purnell

This is an engaging book about a totally badass historical figure, though I’m left unconvinced that the author really had enough information to write a book about her.

Virginia Hall was an American woman who, during WWII, worked undercover in France for first the British and later the American intelligence agencies. She helped organize and arm the French Resistance, spied for the Allies, and later even directed guerilla activities herself. She faced incredible dangers to do so, and with about two years behind enemy lines, spent much more time in France than most operatives, despite the comrades regularly being hauled off by the Gestapo to be tortured and sent to death camps. She had plenty of adventures and near-misses, including once having to escape over the Pyrenees on foot in winter, an even more impressive feat given that she walked on a wooden leg after shooting herself in the foot years before.

Hall is certainly an impressive figure, and I am glad to have learned about her and enjoyed the book. After the first couple of chapters early on, relating the first 30-odd years of her life before sneaking into occupied France, the book is overwhelmingly focused on high-tension WWII exploits, and written in a fluid style that makes for quick reading. I’ve read my share of WWII books considering this is not my favorite subject, but I learned some new things here about the French Resistance, and the book introduces readers to numerous impressive men and women who risked and sometimes lost their lives fighting the Nazis.

That said, Hall herself – no surprise here – was secretive, and refused to share war stories even in later years with the niece to whom she was close, so I have some questions about where all the author’s information comes from. In particular, the author is quick to describe Hall’s thoughts and feelings about events without attributing them to any particular source, leaving me to suspect she made them up. Also, that same reticence on the part of the book’s subject left me confused about just how Hall was accomplishing the things she did. Somehow, Hall would arrive in a place where she knew no one, and despite Purnell’s repeated insistence that Hall was security-oriented and had no patience for loose-lipped operatives, within as little as two days she would have some new person apparently in on the secret, risking their life to accompany her on dangerous missions, while she risked hers in trusting them. Obviously Hall was an excellent judge of character since this virtually always worked out, but the book doesn’t give any sense of her methods, probably because the author doesn’t know.

I also came away with the sense that Purnell was perhaps a little too enamored of her subject, heavily criticizing anyone Hall didn’t get along with. It’s interesting that Hall’s career never really went anywhere except in occupied France: before the war she largely seems to have been held back in her attempted diplomatic career by gender prejudice, and it was at least partially the same story afterwards in her years with the CIA. However, I couldn’t entirely share the author’s indignation with the CIA’s failure to fully utilize Hall’s talents when during the decades after WWII the agency was busy toppling democratically-elected progressive leaders in Latin America to replace them with right-wingers who were friendly to American business interests and whose torture and murder of dissenters was pretty similar to the Nazis’ methods. While Hall’s having a desk job during those years doesn’t exempt her from her share of moral culpability – which Purnell never acknowledges – it at least lets the book focus instead on the straightforward excitement of the French Resistance years, with everything after that summed up in a single chapter at the end.

As an interesting and enjoyable book that introduced me to an impressive woman I would not otherwise have known about, I found this worth reading. But it’s sufficiently biased and speculative that I find it a bit difficult to recommend.

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review 2020-05-27 09:36
In Search of the Trojan War by Michael Wood
In Search of the Trojan War -

TITLE:  In Search of the Trojan War

 

AUTHOR:  Michael Wood

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2005 (updated edition)

 

FORMAT:  paperback

 

ISBN-13:  9780563522652

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DESCRIPTION:

 "For thousands of years we have been enthralled by tales of Troy and its heroes. Achilles and Hector, Paris and the famed beauty Helen remain some of the most enduring figures in art and literature. But did these titanic characters really walk the earth? Was there ever an actual siege of Troy? In this extensively revised edition, historian Michael Wood takes account of the latest dramatic developments in the search for Troy. His wide-ranging study of the complex archaeological, literary and historical records has been brought up-to-date. Detailing the rediscovery in Moscow of the so-called jewels of Helen and the re-excavation of the site of Troy begun in 1988, which continues to yield new evidence about the historical city, In Search of the Trojan War takes a fresh look at some of the most excited discoveries in archaeology. A dazzling and exhaustive analysis. Washington Post This beautifully illustrated book vividly evokes themes that are central to our civilizations quest for its past. "

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REVIEW:

 

An entertaining and fascinating detective history book that aims to determine if the Trojan War could have happened as described in Homer's Iliad.  Wood takes a look at archaeology (ancient texts and ground work), as well as literature, to determine what was going on in and around the ancient Mediterranean region during the Bronze Age.  The updated edition includes an additional chapter that reveals new finds made since the 1980s.  A few more illustrations (especially one that displays all the Troy levels) would have been useful.

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review 2020-05-26 17:53
Podcast #185 is up!
Policing the Home Front 1914-1918: The control of the British population at war - Mary Fraser

My latest podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it, I interview Mary Fraser about her account of the British police forces in the First World War. Enjoy!

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text 2020-05-23 21:21
Reading progress update: I've read 33 out of 920 pages.
The Army Air Forces in World War II Volume Five The Pacific: Matterhorn to Nagasaki June 1944 to August 1945 - James Lea Cate,Wesley Frank Craven

I'm reconsidering my initial intention to add this book to the book box once I'm done with it. Though I'm less than a twentieth of the war through the book, it's already proving to be a fount of detail about subjects that have long been of interest to me. Having just finished the section on the planning for MATTERHORN (the plan for American bombers to strike at Japan from bases in China), I'm looking forward to reading the authors' coverage of its implementation (spoiler: it doesn't go well).

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