Ever since I saw Matt’s review of this book earlier in the year, I have been itching to read it. It took me a while to track down a pre loved copy but the copy I eventually read is very authentic and of that period, so much so that the price on the cover is in shillings and pence!
A friend of Ian Fleming’s, there is speculation that Fitzroy Maclean was the real life inspiration for the character James Bond, totally believable after reading these amazing memoirs.
This book is Maclean’s account of his early career before and during the second world war. Starting as a British diplomat in Paris, he secured for himself a posting to Moscow. Here, against all odds, through sheer determination and with uninvited Soviet NKVD escorts, he achieved his dream (one of many) of visiting the central Asian countries of Samarkand, Tashkent and Bokhara. He then witnessed the Stalin show trials before enlisting at the start of the war. Here he spent time masquerading as an Italian officer in the North African desert with the SAS before heading into Persia to kidnap a Nazi-sympathetic General.
Was there anything this man couldn’t do?! It would seem not…
Reporting directly to Winston Churchill, he was then parachuted into Yugoslavia to check out the situation with the rival Partisan groups. His brief was to find out who was killing more of the enemy and set about helping them. For 18 months he worked closely with Tito and despite differing ideologies, Tito being a committed Communist, forged an allegiance based on respect and short term mutual goals.
There is so much more contained within these pages and if any one message comes out of it, it’s the age old adage..”if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.” If Maclean had been deterred at the first, second or twentieth obstacle, his story could have been so different.
Fascinating and entertaining – I would especially recommend this book for those interested in Eastern Europe around the time of WWII and lovers of adventure/travel tales.
Plenty of further reading ideas have come out of this book.At the top of my ever expanding wish list now is Black Lamb and Grey Falcon – A Journey through Yugoslavia by Rebecca West. This sounds like a timeless gem.
Challenges: WWII, Compass, Read your name challenge