Examples: "A warrior monk, he craved action and the company of soldiers, but when the fighting was over, he embraced solitude". "Recruiting Mayne was like adopting a wolf: exciting, certain to instill fear, but not necessarily sensible".
(I didn't realize it until about 30 pages left in the book but I've actually read another book by this author. It's about Kim Philby and it's also elegantly written and ALSO has people you want to punch in the face. So there's that).
So, the SAS were a group of men that specifically were designed to go behind enemy lines, sabotage, wreck all kinds of havoc and then get out. This was not generally how things were done, and it took a certain type of person to be able to do it (especially where they first started, fighting in the Libyan dessert, jumping out of planes at night, which they were the first to do - probably because it's dangerous as hell and you shouldn't do it). So these men who had to be tough, committed, wiling to follow orders but not be "yes men", and be willing to work as a part of a team-being devoted to each other (but also to leave someone who broke their back in the middle of the desert because they couldn't carry him and endanger the mission - this happened a fair amount. Jumping out of planes in the desert, remember?) came from surprisingly diverse backgrounds. You had upper crust rich guys, guys who came from tomato farms,a Belgian merchant with a name no one can pronounce so they gave him a new one, american cowboys who turned into pilots who crashed in Europe and then got recruited, someone from Wisconsin - woohoo!, a parachuting priest and at least 2 totally homicidal Scots (bless their homicidal hearts, they were nuts). AND THAT'S NOT EVEN THE GUY WHO SCALED A TOWER WHERE A SNIPER WAS SHOOTING FROM AND STRANGLED HIM WITH HIS BARE HANDS.
The book covers how the group began, their first theater of battle (Libyan dessert - sounds terrible) and then on to Europe. It is kind of hard because you get attached to a few of them and then they die when a bomb explodes their truck or get lined up and shot outside of a train car in the forest (god damned Nazis). It's a lot of names, but these men are memorable. But they aren't just caricatures of action heroes, there's a particular scene around a campfire that was bittersweet.
So you may be able to tell from my rambling, but I really enjoyed this book. It's in my top 3 of the year. I will actively seek out more of Mr Macintyre's books!
|I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review from Blogging for Books|