Restless in wartime

Book Review: Restless by William Boyd (2006) Although this is a novel of espionage set during the Second World War, there is little of the James Bond stuff in it. The novel deals mostly with propaganda. The main effort was to draw America into the war. Britain was under siege, struggling to fight off the Nazis. Britain needed all the help it could get. America was reluctant to get involved in another European war. Whatever Roosevelt thought hardly mattered. Congress and the public wanted nothing to do with another European war. Besides it was 3,000 miles away, it was not an American problem. The job of the British espionage unit was to convince Americans that it was not just a European problem, but a world problem. I found it intriguing the way false stories were spread. They would concoct a story —  something the Nazis were supposed to have done, something that was detrimental or insulting to Americans. Then they would get it published, or radio presented, in some minor news outlet in America. Once that was done, they would send it out again with an American dateline. Before long it would be picked up by other news agencies, no… Continue reading

– Life and death in Shanghai –

This is a wonderful story of determination and mental strength of a 51 year-old woman. A perfect book for International Women’s Day! Accused of being a spy, she survived more than six years of harsh imprisonment by the Red Guards in China. It is a story of adaptability, courage, and bravery. This is an autobiographical account of Nien Cheng who, after her husband died, became an assistant advisor to the manager of Shell Oil in China. Shell was one of the few companies that stayed on in China after the Communists came to power in 1949. Chinese by birth, Nien Cheng and her husband had been educated in England. Her husband was head of Shell Oil for many years. He died of cancer in 1957. Nien was then asked to assist in the running of Shell in China. In 1966 The Chinese Cultural Revolution burst onto the streets like the 1938 Nazi Crystal Night. It was a highly organised, political movement, aimed at removing all opposition, all disagreement to Mao Tse-tung. Anyone who showed the slightest opposition to his authority was murdered by the Red Guards. If you have read George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, then you have a very good… Continue reading

— The extraordinary Martha Gellhorn —

Martha Gellhorn is regarded as one of the greatest war correspondents of the 20th century, covering every major world conflict that took place during her 60-year career as a novelist, travel writer, and journalist. Martha Gellhorn was born in November 1908, St. Louis, USA. She enrolled in Bryn Mawr College in Philadelphia, but in 1927, she left before graduating to become a journalist. In 1930 she went to France for two years where she worked at the United Press bureau in Paris. During this period she became active in the pacifist movement and wrote about her experiences in the book, What Mad Pursuit (1934). Back in America, Gellhorn was hired as a field investigator for the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, created by Roosevelt to alleviate the Great Depression. She worked with Dorothea Lange, a photographer, to document the everyday lives of the hungry and homeless. Their reports later became part of the government files on the Great Depression. Gellhorn’s reports for that agency caught the attention of Eleanor Roosevelt, and the two women became lifelong friends. The Trouble I’ve Seen (1936) was her report in the form of four short stories. Its preface was written by H.G. Wells, with whom… Continue reading

The death of Ernest Hemingway

Photo Ernest & Mary Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway (1899 -1961) was one of the most famous of all American authors. His style was minimalist, understated and direct, and had a huge influence on 20th century literature. He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1954. His most famous novels are: For Whom the Bell Tolls, A Farewell to Arms, and The Old Man and the Sea. When he was 18 he worked briefly as a journalist before enlisting as an ambulance driver in World War 1. In 1918 he was seriously wounded and returned to America in early 1919. He felt isolated, but got some journalistic work with the Toronto Star. He moved to Chicago in 1920 while still writing for the Star. In 1922 he married the first of four wives, Hadley Richardson. They moved to Paris where he worked as a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star. Hemingway became involved with modernist writers and artists of Gertrude Stein’s circle. Stein became Hemingway’s mentor, introducing him to the expatriate artists and writers of the Montparnasse Quarter, where Hemingway met writers such as James Joyce and Ezra Pound. In 1937 Hemingway agreed to report on the Spanish Civil War for the North American Newspaper Alliance. Journalist… Continue reading