Archive for February, 2019

Review: Transcription, by Kate Atkinson

Monday, February 25th, 2019

Having just read a couple of non-fiction books about the British people who worked for a German victory in the Second World War, I thought it was time to read a work of fiction on the same subject.

In Kate Atkinson’s novel, Juliet Armstrong, an 18 year old woman is recruited to MI5 to participate in an intelligence gathering operation targetting British fascists.

She sits in a flat next door to one in which a British agent posing as a Gestapo officer carries out clandestine meetings with people who are keen to be of service to the Third Reich.

The flat is bugged and Juliet’s job is to transcribe the conversations that take place there.

She is also given another, related task which brings her into contact with other wannabe Quislings.

The book moves back and forth between 1940 and the years after the war, when Juliet works for the BBC.

There are secrets and twists galore, but one’s enjoyment of the book will depend entirely on whether one enjoys Juliet’s company.

I find her to be a most enjoyable character, though I felt let down by the ending, which did feel somewhat rushed.

Nevertheless, an excellent story, highly recommended.

Review: Sara, by Garth Ennis

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

This new graphic novel is a beautifully-drawn, powerfully-told story about a group of seven Soviet female snipers during the Second World War. Sara, the best shot in the group, is plagued by doubts about the Soviet regime and struggles to suppress her desire to speak out. A chilling tale of sacrifice and revenge.

Review: The Traitors: A True Story of Blood, Betrayal and Deceit, by Josh Ireland

Tuesday, February 12th, 2019

Having just read The Meaning of Treason by Rebecca West I was keen to read a more recent account of the British subjects who betrayed their country and worked on behalf of Nazi Germany. I was not disappointed:

Josh Ireland’s book, which focusses on the notorious “Lord Haw Haw” (William Joyce) and three less well known traitors does the job. The most interesting of the group was Harold Cole, who spent the war pretending to be a British agent operating in Nazi-occupied Europe, weaving his way into the confidence of the French resistance, while betraying scores of patriots to the Germans. While the two main protagonists of the book, Joyce and the infamous John Amery, son of a British cabinet minister, were hanged following trials in London, Cole was killed in a gun battle in the Paris flat where had been hiding.

One of the saddest things about these stories is the fate of the women who came into the lives of these traitors. Many of them were used (the Germans would offer up local girls to lure British prisoners to sign up to the Nazi side), many others were betrayed, and some suffered the fate of falling in love with the wrong man.

My one gripe about the book: the authors fails to mention West’s pioneering work, which was based on her own experience watching the treason trials in Britain.