Friday, August 26, 2016

further reading

Good Tidings

And so here we are again with book reviews. Or book comments, or indeed book observations if, look you see, that’s how you prefer to term whatever notes I make as such. In moving on, I have indeed read not one, not three, but a further two novels since the last time I wrote this was, and so off we go.

We start off in the way that is custom, then, with a gander at the front covers of the two books in question. For those determined types who are known to be frequent readers of this blog, however – in particular those who visit here exclusively for Spiros updates – one shall already be known to you.

Something of a quick, spoiler-free overview? Certainly. HHhH is not a novel I would have chosen to read myself, but as it happens it’s one of the most remarkable works which I’ve had the pleasure of encountering. Trigger Mortis is James Bond, so it is, to be sure, and that normally determines straight away if one is interested in it or not, rather making my reaction somewhat academic.

Disclaimer time, then, although again this could be something which is rather academic. HHhH deals with a very well known – if not often discussed – historical event, whilst being a James Bond tale means that for all the suspense and excitement Trigger Mortis has, surely the conclusion of it would not take many by surprise.But, for those who like such things to be in place, please consider a *** FABULOUS SPOILER WARNING *** to now exist.

A further disclaimer, or if you like also also disclaimer, is that any links here are nothing to do with endorsements, suggestions or affiliations – far from it, in fact, as I’ve not done business with the Amazon for a long time. They just happen to be the easiest place to refer people to for books no matter where they are in the world.

That said, as previously documented the provenance of my copy of HHhH is that it is off of Amazon. Spiros was most insistent that I read this particular novel, and to this end he kindly purchased a copy of it off me off of that grocer, ensuring that they shipped it to me as quickly as possible.

Plot? Ostensibly it is an account of Operation Anthropoid, a World War II mission which set out to assassinate Heydrich. For those not overtly familiar with the Nazi regime, this mission was crucial – whilst Heydrich is perhaps not as well known or familiar as certain other leaders of the Reich, for many he was the most dangerous as his intelligence and his success in ruling an occupied territory gave every indication that he would perhaps one day take leadership overall. He would, it is speculated, have proved a far more intelligent and tougher to defeat leader than the incumbent one.

If it’s an historical account, why is it a novel? Because the whole thing is told by a French narrator (the novel is indeed itself translated from the French), and the account of Operation Anthropoid is only half of the book. Much of the narrative explores how one assembles historical information to recount such a tale, and looks at the relative merits and failures of how interpretation, not to mention personal perspective, influences how history is written. A well known saying to this extent is that history is written by the victors, and this gets looked at in a very interesting way.

One of the most interesting aspects of this narrative is the occasional insight into a French perspective on World War II. Whilst all of us in the rest of the world – indeed us English are duty bound to do so – enjoy commenting in a quite judgemental way on the French proclivity to surrender in conflict as soon as possible, what perhaps doesn’t occur to us – yes, me too – is the fact that the people of France to this day remain with a sense of shame about it. However much we may mock or tease is rather inconsequential compared, it would seem, to the shame, disgust and anger the French have at just how easily their leaders capitulated to and collaborated with the Nazis; with the leadership betraying their own people and the nations of Europe who trusted them.

HHhH by Laurent Binet is a novel that I would strongly recommend all read, or at least watch a film version of. I believe HHhH itself is being filmed, whilst another movie called Anthropoid deals with the same material. Not only is it an aspect of World War II which was important and interesting to learn about, it is in its own right an exceptional read.

Whereas James Bond doesn’t have the historical importance of Heydrich, he does take a rather prominent place in popular culture. It may well be the case that the films featuring the celebrated British agent with a licence to kill are generally more accessed than the novels, but nonetheless there remain a willing readership market for them. To this end the Estate of Ian Fleming from time to time commissions an official novel to be written, and Trigger Mortis by Anthony Horowitz is the most recent.

Plot? It’s the 1950s. James Bond is back in London, and is somewhat unpopular with the powers that be as he is harbouring / sheltering Pussy Galore from the authorities after thwarting the plans of Goldfinger. As a partial means of ending this, he is given an unusual assignment. British intelligence suggests that the Soviet Union is intent on showing its technological superiority over the West in all areas, and intends to do this by unfair means. Bond must somehow stop an ambitious attempt to assassinate Britain’s top racing driver during a race at the Nürburgring. As he works on doing so, it becomes clear that the USSR has a far more sinister way of showing superiority……

I’ll be quite honest, I am far more familiar with the Bond films than I am the novels. To this end, at first it was somewhat distracting seeing characters referred to in their (correct) literary nature rather than their cinematic presentation. But, you know, I am educated and all that, so I managed. And in doing so, I really rather enjoyed this one. No, I wouldn’t say best Bond adventure ever, but I would suggest a fun and good one. Fans of the books and films alike should get on just fine with this.

The provenance of my copy of Trigger Mortis? In truth I forget. The lack of sticker on the cover, however, suggests that it was purchased off of Tesco. They do books at 2 for £7, or something like £3.85 each, and from what I recall they don't put stickers on to this effect, unlike other grocers.  

And there you have it, or if you like there we go. If you’ve just skimmed through this all to get to my point, in short HHhH is essential reading, whereas Trigger Mortis will not displease those who love all things Bond.

My next reading adventure? Not sure as such as yet. I have quite a pile to consider and get through. All of them would seem to be fairly lengthy ones, and so with the limited time I have available for reading these days it might be a little while before the next batch of reviews appears here.

In the mean time, I can but trust that this has been of some use to someone, somewhere!

Be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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