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Eight Hours From England (Imperial War Museum Wartime Classics)

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“As I climbed on I thought, 'This is the end then. I have often wondered how it would come. Now I know. Any moment a bullet will smack into me, and a khaki bundle that was Overton will go tumbling down the hill on to the beach . . .’ " Autumn 1943. Realizing that his feelings for his sweetheart are not reciprocated, Major John Overton accepts a posting behind enemy lines i “As I climbed on I thought, 'This is the end then. I have often wondered how it would come. Now I know. Any moment a bullet will smack into me, and a khaki bundle that was Overton will go tumbling down the hill on to the beach . . .’ " Autumn 1943. Realizing that his feelings for his sweetheart are not reciprocated, Major John Overton accepts a posting behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied Albania. Arriving to find the situation in disarray, Overton attempts to overcome geographical challenges and political intrigues to set up a new camp in the mountains overlooking the Adriatic. As he struggles to complete his mission against the chaotic backdrop of battle, Overton is left to ruminate on loyalty, comradeship, and the futility of war.


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“As I climbed on I thought, 'This is the end then. I have often wondered how it would come. Now I know. Any moment a bullet will smack into me, and a khaki bundle that was Overton will go tumbling down the hill on to the beach . . .’ " Autumn 1943. Realizing that his feelings for his sweetheart are not reciprocated, Major John Overton accepts a posting behind enemy lines i “As I climbed on I thought, 'This is the end then. I have often wondered how it would come. Now I know. Any moment a bullet will smack into me, and a khaki bundle that was Overton will go tumbling down the hill on to the beach . . .’ " Autumn 1943. Realizing that his feelings for his sweetheart are not reciprocated, Major John Overton accepts a posting behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied Albania. Arriving to find the situation in disarray, Overton attempts to overcome geographical challenges and political intrigues to set up a new camp in the mountains overlooking the Adriatic. As he struggles to complete his mission against the chaotic backdrop of battle, Overton is left to ruminate on loyalty, comradeship, and the futility of war.

30 review for Eight Hours From England (Imperial War Museum Wartime Classics)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    This is one of four previously out of print books that have been republished by the Imperial War Museum to mark the 80th anniversary of the start of WWII. All were written either during or shortly after the War. If the other 3 in the series are as good as this one the collection will certainly be worth reading. I will admit that this particular book caught my attention because of its celebrity author. Those of us of a certain age will remember Anthony Quayle as a successful actor. He had a part i This is one of four previously out of print books that have been republished by the Imperial War Museum to mark the 80th anniversary of the start of WWII. All were written either during or shortly after the War. If the other 3 in the series are as good as this one the collection will certainly be worth reading. I will admit that this particular book caught my attention because of its celebrity author. Those of us of a certain age will remember Anthony Quayle as a successful actor. He had a part in one of my own favourite films, the 1958 British war film “Ice Cold in Alex”. During the first few years of the war Quayle was stationed in Gibraltar, and in this posting he hadn’t seen any combat. He felt sufficiently guilty about this to volunteer for the ridiculously dangerous job of an SOE Agent. These agents went into occupied Europe, where they were supposed to liaise with local resistance fighters to carry out acts of sabotage or otherwise attack the German forces. Quayle was posted to Albania, arriving there on 31 December 1943. Although this is packaged as a novel, the Introduction calls it “a memoir in all but name”, with Quayle’s alter ego as a Major John Overton. This isn’t a novel for those who want to read of dashing exploits and audacious raids. When Overton arrives in Albania he is full of plans of how he is going to cause trouble for the Germans, but he actually finds himself caught in an incipient Albanian civil war between communist and right-wing factions. Overton and his fellow British officers were men who saw the War as a straightforward fight between good and evil, and they struggle to understand the society of “dirt poor goatherds and peasants” they have landed in, and which seems to them “like another world.” The characters seemed to me wholly authentic (which is unsurprising since they were mostly based on real people) and I found myself emotionally engaged with them. The lack of combat scenes doesn’t detract from the tension in the novel, particularly the last couple of chapters, which I found gripping. I found it a very well-crafted work. Well done to the IWM for bringing this back.

  2. 4 out of 5

    J.C.

    Enthralling book - I could hardly put it down. Fictionalised autobiography, which certainly added to the interest level for me. Authentic from start to finish. If you're looking for combat scenes, this wouldn't satisfy, but the realities of a Special Operations Executive WW2 mission to Albania in winter are tough enough without battles. A sensitive appraisal of the internal tensions in Albania and the characters with whom the protagonist, John Overton (Anthony Quayle) has to interact (the German Enthralling book - I could hardly put it down. Fictionalised autobiography, which certainly added to the interest level for me. Authentic from start to finish. If you're looking for combat scenes, this wouldn't satisfy, but the realities of a Special Operations Executive WW2 mission to Albania in winter are tough enough without battles. A sensitive appraisal of the internal tensions in Albania and the characters with whom the protagonist, John Overton (Anthony Quayle) has to interact (the Germans are in the background in the book). You feel you're there with this little band of heroes. You shiver and suffer with them in the physical hardships they endure, you participate in the frustration they feel at their struggle to pursue their mission against hostile and treacherous locals (if you're Albanian you probably won't like some of the descriptions, but the novel is of its time), and the level of duplicity involved. John Overton reflects on their lives, their mission and the hopes common to all men. There is some quite beautiful interaction with one of the Italians stranded there, Munzi, who becomes a close friend; compassion perseveres in the face of terrible adversity, and the description of the relationships at the end makes me think of Grossman, the "individual acts of human kindness" that make all the difference. Superb.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Cathy

    The poignant opening scene of the book sees John Overton and Ann (the woman he loves but whom he fears may not return those feelings) gathered around the wireless set to hear Chamberlain’s speech declaring war with Germany. Returning from service three years later, Overton’s feelings are unchanged but his declaration of love receives a lukewarm reception. Accepting a mission overseas, in his desire to make a ‘gift’ to Ann of his service, he is posted – more by chance than anything else – to Alba The poignant opening scene of the book sees John Overton and Ann (the woman he loves but whom he fears may not return those feelings) gathered around the wireless set to hear Chamberlain’s speech declaring war with Germany. Returning from service three years later, Overton’s feelings are unchanged but his declaration of love receives a lukewarm reception. Accepting a mission overseas, in his desire to make a ‘gift’ to Ann of his service, he is posted – more by chance than anything else – to Albania as ‘agent, saboteur, and general fanner of the flames of revolt’. Arriving in Albania, the comment by the officer Overton relieves – “I wish you joy of the damned place” – is not exactly encouraging but turns out to be no jest. Overton finds himself in the midst of a civil war in which, for the different factions, fighting each other often takes precedence over fighting the Germans. He also finds the task he has been given – to engage the help of the Albanians to kill Germans – conflicts with the intelligence gathering objectives of other officers with whom he must work but doesn’t command. Over the next few months, Overton finds himself near the end of his resources on many occasions and is candid about the mental and physical toll of the responsibility of command. For example, when news of a German patrol nearby reaches the base he admits, ‘I didn’t want to cope with this situation; I didn’t want to have to take decisions; I only wanted to go to sleep. Was this fear, I wondered?’ Even in the darkest situations, Ann, the woman he left behind in England, dominates Overton’s thoughts: “She is never very far away, living always in my brain, in my blood.” I found it touching that at one point as they scramble to evacuate the camp, one of the few possessions he takes with him is a ‘precious’ photograph of her. Even in situations where he believes he is facing death, his thoughts turn to Ann. “All the while I felt no fear at all – only a great, great sadness, an intolerable regret that now Ann would never know what it was I had been trying to say to her…’ (I have to say this reader had the uncharitable thought that Ann didn’t deserve such a man.) The book displays some evocative writing such as this passage describing Overton’s long, tedious flight to Cairo en route to his mission. ‘Through a night and two days the plane drew an aerial furrow halfway round a continent smoking with war, but no sound of the fury reached us in the sky. There, detached and sealed in our flying cylinder, life was aseptic, commonplace, an alternation of waking, sleeping and joyless eating of sandwiches. In the night great cities passed below, but they were only a cluster of lights to help navigation or a significant darkness where lights should have been.’ Some of Quayle’s descriptions of the landscape of Albania and the inclusion of biblical references put me in mind of the writing of one of my favourite authors, John Buchan. There are also some great action scenes, such as when Overton and his comrades battle the elements to bring ashore stores and ammunition and evacuate wounded in small boats at dead of night or when they are forced to cross the mountains in darkness using treacherous paths, completely reliant on their local guides. I liked the fact that at certain points the actor within the author reveals himself. For example, when being given his initial orders by a young lieutenant-colonel, Quayle has Overton think, ‘I had a strong feeling that the colonel was playing a part, the part of a “man behind the scenes” in a spy film, the man in the darkened room who at the end of the interview says: “You have an important mission ahead of you…a dangerous mission.” (Here the character usually rises to his feet and holds out his hand.) “Goodbye to you…” (pregnant pause) “…and good luck!” It was so much a performance that I found myself watching it in a detached way.’ And wouldn’t you know it, at the end of the scene, Quayle has the colonel rise, hold out his hand to Overton and say, ‘”Goodbye to you”. A pregnant pause. “And good luck!”‘ Some readers may struggle with the complexity of the political situation described in the book but, as confirmed in Alan Jeffreys’ introduction, it is an accurate representation of the difficulties faced by real life counterparts of Overton, including Anthony Quayle himself. What I particularly admired about the book is that, although it is a fictionalized account, it’s not romanticized in any way. The reader is there with Overton and his comrades in the cold and the wet as they battle fatigue and illness, struggle with the inhospitable terrain and live in constant fear of betrayal or discovery by the Germans. Eight Hours From England is a book that will be most appreciated by those with an interest in the Second World War, especially the exploits of the SOE, and those who want an insight into the off-screen and off-stage life of Anthony Quayle. Fortunately, I tick both of those boxes so in describing my feelings about the book I can’t do better than echo the thoughts of Louis de Bernieres, quoted on the cover: ‘I loved this book, and felt I was really there’. The book certainly left me with renewed respect for the bravery of those who served in the Second World War and, in particular, those who risked their lives on a daily basis in the SOE. It also left me, if it were possible, with even more admiration for Anthony Quayle.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Katedurie50

    Hands up all those who know something about the Second World War in Albania. No, me neither, till I accidentally read this (accidentally because the library kindly dropped off a bag of books it had chosen for me, and I decided, in the spirit of lockdown I'd attempt them all). Antony Quayle drew heavily on his own experience - and the quality of writing is good - and the result is that the texture of an Allied mission in a deeply divided Albania comes across with what feels like real truthfulness Hands up all those who know something about the Second World War in Albania. No, me neither, till I accidentally read this (accidentally because the library kindly dropped off a bag of books it had chosen for me, and I decided, in the spirit of lockdown I'd attempt them all). Antony Quayle drew heavily on his own experience - and the quality of writing is good - and the result is that the texture of an Allied mission in a deeply divided Albania comes across with what feels like real truthfulness. It depicts the hunger (the best meals seem to feature entrails and goats' milk), the wretched conditions where fighting men were reduced by malaria and fever from living in caves, and the difficulty of engaging with an alien culture where larceny (the large stash of gold gets stolen not once but twice), betrayal and extortion are the norm. There are no heroics; the hero sent 'to kill Germans' has a score of nil by the time the mission ends in failure. As it must; the Albanians are divided into Balli (conservative, not unsympathetic to Fascism) and Communist partisans. They would rather kill each other than Germans. Eash side has its own agenda so the mission is, in practice, more about diplomacy than blazing guns; but any move promoted by the Allies would bring down reprisals on people on whom they rely. I found it one of the more convincing depictions of the war I've encountered.

  5. 5 out of 5

    David Evans

    Splendid fictionalised but truly autobiographical account by Sir Anthony Quayle of his adventures in the SOE, spirited on to the Albanian coast in early 1943. His task is to liaise with the competing Ballist and Partisan guerilla factions and try a disrupt the German occupiers of the country. Quayle (Major Overton) is hampered at every turn by lack of equipment, obstinate and treacherous Albanians, the weather and the terrain but what emerges is a gripping tale of survival, courage and, above al Splendid fictionalised but truly autobiographical account by Sir Anthony Quayle of his adventures in the SOE, spirited on to the Albanian coast in early 1943. His task is to liaise with the competing Ballist and Partisan guerilla factions and try a disrupt the German occupiers of the country. Quayle (Major Overton) is hampered at every turn by lack of equipment, obstinate and treacherous Albanians, the weather and the terrain but what emerges is a gripping tale of survival, courage and, above all, friendship. The difficulties of traversing the coastal hills can be appreciated by using Google Earth which shows the little bay at which he arrived and departed as well as the villages that he and his companions had to walk to and from in the bitter winter conditions.

  6. 4 out of 5

    David Prestidge

    To many of us who grew up in the 1950s Anthony Quayle was to become one of a celebrated group of theatrical knights, along with Olivier, Gielgud, Richardson and Redgrave. Until recently I had no idea that he was also wrote two novels based on his experiences in WW2. The first of these, Eight Hours From England was first published in 1945 and is the fourth and final reprint in the impressive series from the Imperial War Museum. Major John Overton, stoically unlucky in love, combines a rather self- To many of us who grew up in the 1950s Anthony Quayle was to become one of a celebrated group of theatrical knights, along with Olivier, Gielgud, Richardson and Redgrave. Until recently I had no idea that he was also wrote two novels based on his experiences in WW2. The first of these, Eight Hours From England was first published in 1945 and is the fourth and final reprint in the impressive series from the Imperial War Museum. Major John Overton, stoically unlucky in love, combines a rather self-sacrificial gesture with a genuine desire to be at ‘the sharp end’ of the war. He chases up casual acquaintances working in the chaotic bureaucracy of London military administration and, rather randomly, finds himself sent out to Albania in the final days of December 1943. The chaotic country – ruled until 1939 by the improbably-named King Zog – had then been annexed by Mussolini’s Italy but after Italy’s surrender to the Allies in the autumn of 1943, German forces had moved in and had a tenuous grip of the country. The brief of Britain’s SOE – the Special Operations Executive – was to fan the flames of behind-the-lines resistance in occupied countries. Admirer’s of Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy will recall that in Unconditional Surrender Guy Crouchback is sent to co-ordinate similar activities in nearby Yugoslavia but, like Crouchback, Overton finds that the situation on the ground is far from straightforward. On the one hand are the Communist partisans, but on the other are the Balli Kombëtar, a fiercely nationalist group who hate the Communists just as much as they hate the Nazis. New Year’s day 1944 brings little physical comfort to Overton, but he is determined to make a difference and, above all, wants to take the war to the Germans. In the following weeks and months he meets unexpected obstacles, chief among them being the Albanians themselves. Their character baffles him. He remarks, ruefully. “The misfortunes of others were the only jokes at which Albanians laughed, the height of comedy being when another man was killed.” His courage, tenacity and sheer physical resilience are immense, but are sorely tried. Overton’s private thoughts are never far from England: “I stayed a while longer looking out over the grey Adriatic where in the distance, the island of Corfu was dimly visible between the rain squalls. It was an afternoon on which to recall the hissing of logs in the hearth of an English home and the sound of the muffin-man’s bell in the street outside.” Of the three classic reprints which feature overseas action Eight Hours From England is the bleakest by far. The books by Alexander Baron and David Piper bear solemn witness to the deaths of brave men, sometimes heroic but often simply tragic: the irony is that Overton and his men do not, as far as I can recall, actually fire a shot in anger. No Germans are killed as a result of their efforts; the Allied cause is not advanced by the tiniest fraction; their heartbreaking struggle is not against the swastika and all it stands for, but against a brutally inhospitable terrain, bitter weather and, above all, the distrust, treachery and embedded criminality of many of the Albanians they encounter. Overton survives, after a fashion, but is close to physical and spiritual breakdown. The heartache which prompted his original gesture is not eased, and the method of his dismissal by the young woman provides a cruel final metaphor: “I put my hand into my pocket and pulled out what I thought was my handkerchief. But it was not: it was Ann’s letter. The blue writing paper had gone pulpy; the writing had smeared and wriggled across the page. Not a word was now legible.” Quite early in the book, when Overton reaches Albania to replace the badly wounded former senior officer, the sick man makes a prophetic statement as he is stretchered aboard the boat to take him to safety: “For a moment Keith did not speak and I thought he had not heard me, then the lips moved and he said slowly, and very clearly: ‘I wish you joy of the damned place.’”

  7. 5 out of 5

    Katharine

    If you can get a copy, I highly recommend this little gem for engaging insights into a little-known side of WWII. The bulk of the story takes place in the mountains of Albania and explores how two factions already engaged in their own civil war tried to leverage both the Germans and the British to achieve their goals. Many parallels to the proxy wars we see ravaging Yemen, Syria, Libya, and even Iraq to some extent.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mike Hall

    I cannot say that I enjoyed the book, at the end I was a little depressed. A large scale war (WWII) divided into pieces; germans, communists, partisans the western allies etc. Family against family, town against town. But like other books in this series, it is fiction that is heavily based on factual events written by those that were there.

  9. 4 out of 5

    phil Bentley

    3*. Undoubtedly heroic and beyond what I could endure, but as a story perhaps other than to shoe that it's not all action and drama there wasn't much too it for me. 3*. Undoubtedly heroic and beyond what I could endure, but as a story perhaps other than to shoe that it's not all action and drama there wasn't much too it for me.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Malcolm Wardlaw

    This interesting war memoir written as a novel in first person is an underrated and forgotten piece of history. Possibly the title is too obscure? Part of its value lies in the romantic values expressed by the narrator, which to us today appear absurdly gradiose, even pompous. It's main interest is as a picture of soldiers operating in enemy territory (in this case Albania in early 1944) trying to untangle the murderous politics of the local population, and getting nowhere. In this case, one gro This interesting war memoir written as a novel in first person is an underrated and forgotten piece of history. Possibly the title is too obscure? Part of its value lies in the romantic values expressed by the narrator, which to us today appear absurdly gradiose, even pompous. It's main interest is as a picture of soldiers operating in enemy territory (in this case Albania in early 1944) trying to untangle the murderous politics of the local population, and getting nowhere. In this case, one group, the Partisans, were communists fighting clearly on the Allied side against the Germans. The other group, the Balli, were harder to bring to order against the Germans as they primarily hated the Partisans and were prepared to side with the Germans to stamp them out. This proved to be a fatal strategy, since the Germans lost and were swept out and the Allied-backed Partisans won. In a clannish society that took its grudges seriously, being the loser was not a good experience. Anthony Quayle clearly had an intricate task trying to maintain bases and supply lines in a rugged country amidst locals of dubious trustworthiness, who kept stealing the gold treasury, requiring Quayle to make forays to the local chiefs to get the gold back (amongst various other adventures). In the end, he was not successful. His detailed account of the difficulties are a lesson in the practical as well as human challenges facing anyone trying to win a hearts and minds type battle. It deserves to be better remembered. It was only by chance I learned of this book in reading Quayle's Wiki page. I expect the difficulties he overcame in the SOE helped the depth of his portrayals as an actor.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    This is a contemporary book of the Second World War, which never forgets the humanity of those who were fighting. For much of this well written book there is very little actual fighting; survival is much more important in a challenging landscape. Written by a man who had undoubtedly been there, the actor Anthony Quayle exceeds all expectations in his moving and often painfully realistic record of life in Albania in late 1943. Having been disappointed in love by Ann, who he continues to idolise t This is a contemporary book of the Second World War, which never forgets the humanity of those who were fighting. For much of this well written book there is very little actual fighting; survival is much more important in a challenging landscape. Written by a man who had undoubtedly been there, the actor Anthony Quayle exceeds all expectations in his moving and often painfully realistic record of life in Albania in late 1943. Having been disappointed in love by Ann, who he continues to idolise throughout the novel, Major John Overton offers to go on a mission to create trouble in Nazi occupied Albania. Finding a complex situation of near civil war between the Albanians themselves, this is far from a straightforward disruption of German forces. As shifting loyalties and opposing interest mean that few people, if any, can be trusted, diplomacy is the order of the day as tribal leaders must be placated and bribed with gold, weapons and essential supplies. While establishing a foothold in the unfriendly and largely inaccessible countryside is a priority, difficult decisions must be made when any connection with headquarters is tenuous. There are very few forces to command, as British officers are sent sparingly and relations with those from America and the retreating Italians can be difficult. This is a fascinating account of the humans involved in a complex and changeable situation; the local warlords, the interpreters and guides, the shepherds and the locals trying to survive and preserve their territory. The soldiers who have to survive literally on the edge of mountains with tiny amounts of basic supplies are well drawn. The ever present menace of the German forces threads throughout this war novel which is far more about people than battle. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this reprinted novel in the series of Wartime Classics produced by the Imperial War Museum. The novel begins with the confusion of a war declared and emerging on so many fronts. Desperate to leave London and an admiration of the seemingly unattainable Ann, John Overton travels to a large British base in Cario. The administration are unsure what to do with this technically trained but inexperienced officer, so he is dispatched to Albania, “the least developed of all the Balkan sections”. In an exciting transfer to the coast of the country, a base rejoicing in the name of “Sea View”, Overton soon discovers that leading a small group of men who are not all under his command will be a delicate matter. As defeated Italian troops defect to Allied protection, their physical presence complicates the situation. Despite his expectations and training, simply blowing up roads and disrupting German forces proves to be far from straightforward, as a factional and fierce situation is revealed, with betrayal and self protection being the dominating motivation, made more complicated by language differences. This book is far from the traditional military account of an ex soldier. It is fictionalised autobiography of the most intimate kind, full of the telling details of sights, sounds and even tastes of someone who experienced them first hand. Quayle was a memorable actor especially in films depicting small groups of people in war. On the evidence of this book he was also an acute and inspiring writer. I recommend this book as an immensely readable account of a confusing yet life changing experience in a lost world, but recognisable for its people full of fear, loyalty and sheer determination to survive.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Eight Hours From England was originally published in 1945 and has been republished by The Imperial War Museum to coincide with the 80th anniversary of the onset of WW2. It differs to other books that I have read that are set during the war, the characters who feature don’t see any fighting with regards to the war but they do see the unsettlement and grievances between the Albanians. Something that still has repercussions now. Anthony Quayle was With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Eight Hours From England was originally published in 1945 and has been republished by The Imperial War Museum to coincide with the 80th anniversary of the onset of WW2. It differs to other books that I have read that are set during the war, the characters who feature don’t see any fighting with regards to the war but they do see the unsettlement and grievances between the Albanians. Something that still has repercussions now. Anthony Quayle was not an actor I was aware of. I have seen reviews that mention the reader being unaware of his role during the war. I searched for him on the internet and was unsurprised to find that he was reticent about his experience. Whilst he wasn’t on the front line it was obvious that his character Overton was deeply affected by what he witnessed. I did find some of the political unrest confusing, no fault of the author, just with my complete lack of knowledge about how the war affected this part of Europe. What did hit home in a discussion between Overton and a village leader was that both the Allied and German armies were demanding help from the local people, putting their own lives at risk, but would forget all about their troubles after the war. Humbling, an overwhelming sense of loneliness and brutally honest.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nina

    The jacket blurb suggests we compare this fictionalized version of Sir Anthony Quayle's wartime experiences in Albania with The Thirty-Nine Steps. Bad idea, because the latter is a wonderful yarn, and this is a chaotic mess. This reader felt a lot of sympathy for Overton (Quayle's alter ego). The situation in Albania was impossible: a badly bungled world war superimposed on a nasty civil war. Doubtless, no one would have done much better than poor Overton does among the shifting complexities of The jacket blurb suggests we compare this fictionalized version of Sir Anthony Quayle's wartime experiences in Albania with The Thirty-Nine Steps. Bad idea, because the latter is a wonderful yarn, and this is a chaotic mess. This reader felt a lot of sympathy for Overton (Quayle's alter ego). The situation in Albania was impossible: a badly bungled world war superimposed on a nasty civil war. Doubtless, no one would have done much better than poor Overton does among the shifting complexities of tribal warfare. Bound by his class, education, and an absence of imagination, he lacks any ability to assess the men or situations around him. Burdened with guilt over his failures, Overton soldiers on, making worse the fiascos he finds himself in. So much for the story. As for the novel-craft, Quayle was equally incompetent. Tied to "what really happened", he was unable to jettison extraneous characters or scenes for the sake of coherence. This reader was not certain he ever really understood either his experiences or what he was attempting to make of his experiences. It's all just a big, filthy muddle.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Laurence Westwood

    This novel, first published in 1945, details the exploits of an SOE operative, a Major Overton, working with partisans during the Second World War. It is autobiographical, in the sense that it follows closely the exploits of the author, Anthony Quayle - who would go on to act in a number of great war films - working for the SOE in Albania. It is not a novel of excitement and intense battles, but of continual frustration with the people and political climate in Albania as well as the difficulties This novel, first published in 1945, details the exploits of an SOE operative, a Major Overton, working with partisans during the Second World War. It is autobiographical, in the sense that it follows closely the exploits of the author, Anthony Quayle - who would go on to act in a number of great war films - working for the SOE in Albania. It is not a novel of excitement and intense battles, but of continual frustration with the people and political climate in Albania as well as the difficulties of operating in a harsh and unforgiving landscape. It is a good, solid story, but at the end I was left wondering it really did constitute a novel - by which, I mean, the structure did seem to me to be more that of a memoir. Perhaps, in 1945, it was easier, psychologically speaking, for Anthony Quayle to make of the story a novel rather than a memoir. Either way, it is a fascinating slice of history and recommended reading for all interested in the Second World War.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lel Budge

    Major John Overton is a Special Operations Executive (SOE) and is posted to Nazi occupied Albania, to set up a new camp. He finds chaos, but with determination he tries to overcome the politics, the weather, the landscape and the Albanian people to get the camp ready. Were they really there to help ? Or impose the British way on a different culture? An adventure story set in wartime, with all its horrors and is all the more remarkable as based on Anthony Quayle’s own experiences. Beautifully writ Major John Overton is a Special Operations Executive (SOE) and is posted to Nazi occupied Albania, to set up a new camp. He finds chaos, but with determination he tries to overcome the politics, the weather, the landscape and the Albanian people to get the camp ready. Were they really there to help ? Or impose the British way on a different culture? An adventure story set in wartime, with all its horrors and is all the more remarkable as based on Anthony Quayle’s own experiences. Beautifully written and very moving at times. Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour and for the promotional materials and a free copy of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Alex Jones

    1943, Major John Overton, realising his partner doesn’t share his feelings, volunteers for SOE operations and finds himself posted to an Albania on the cusp of civil war. As much as this book is beautifully written and stated as a novel, it reads very much like Quayle’s Memoir, his alter ego being John Overton. It’s tense, and moving, whilst not filled was the scenes of war you may expect from a novel such as this. Gripping, fascinating and a literary feat, another pleasure to read in this republis 1943, Major John Overton, realising his partner doesn’t share his feelings, volunteers for SOE operations and finds himself posted to an Albania on the cusp of civil war. As much as this book is beautifully written and stated as a novel, it reads very much like Quayle’s Memoir, his alter ego being John Overton. It’s tense, and moving, whilst not filled was the scenes of war you may expect from a novel such as this. Gripping, fascinating and a literary feat, another pleasure to read in this republished series of Wartime Gems. 4🔥🔥🔥🔥

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ben Garner

  18. 4 out of 5

    Paul Schieffer

  19. 4 out of 5

    Richard J Wilson

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sean Smart

  21. 5 out of 5

    Matt

  22. 4 out of 5

    Bennett

  23. 5 out of 5

    Andre Noel

  24. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Brown

  25. 5 out of 5

    Laura K.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Olsi Birbo

  27. 4 out of 5

    Neil

  28. 4 out of 5

    Reent

  29. 4 out of 5

    Oliver Johnson

  30. 4 out of 5

    Peter

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