If you're a *real* Spike Milligan fan, you'll probably love this book to pieces - insights on his personal life, private letters, postcards to friends...moreIf you're a *real* Spike Milligan fan, you'll probably love this book to pieces - insights on his personal life, private letters, postcards to friends and family, and early drafts of later stories; it's all here.
For me, as a Goon Show fan, I was a little disappointed - only one incomplete draft gives you any insights into the creative process that brought that show to life. There are lovely sketches of most of the Goon Show characters though! Many of the short poems were very nice as well. However, a good third of the book is dedicated to Spike's life as an activist - for animal rights in particular, but fights with Harrods and the local municipality over street lights feature prominently.
Apart from that, the book was pretty forgettable - an interesting insight into the life of a fascinating figure of his times, and British viewpoints in the middle of the century in general. If you want a bit of Spike "in his own words", go for it. If you'd like to know about Spike or the Goons, a biography would be better.(less)
A fantastic book, a real blow-by-blow account of the Malaya campaign filled with interviews, diary extracts, personal letters and other on-the-ground...moreA fantastic book, a real blow-by-blow account of the Malaya campaign filled with interviews, diary extracts, personal letters and other on-the-ground information which really brings you to the action.
More maps would have been nice, particularly topographic maps of the crucial battles. I also found the chapters on the POW camps after the massacre a little short on detail, although I guess that's really outside the scope of the book. I'd rate it 4/5, unless you have a particular interest in the Malaya campaign or want a good introduction to it, in which case this is completely 5/5.(less)
I thought there were lots of strange little flaws in this book: the frame story, for instance, I found fairly unconvincing, didn't think it worked ver...moreI thought there were lots of strange little flaws in this book: the frame story, for instance, I found fairly unconvincing, didn't think it worked very well, and in fact thought it was entirely unnecessary. I think I also missed references to Wagner's personal history and musical career, which form a backdrop to the story as it progresses. Although the author strains to portray the familial, gentle and complex character of Adolf Hitler, I think - despite some fantastic early portrayals - he ultimately degenerates into the larger-than-myth cliché so familiar to us.
Where the author excels is his spellbinding and heartfelt portrait of a family torn in the dying days of the Weimer Republic and twisted by the rise of Nazism and the coming of War. The puppy-love which forms the central relationship of the book is also told wonderfully. The stories of Wagner's life, which I couldn't directly connect to the rest of the story, form an engrossing and enlightening read, and perfectly dovetail into the finale. The author and his family are immediately sympathetic characters, and it is a pleasure to share in their joys and sorrows.
Not a great book, in my opinion, but definitely a fine read. I'd rate this a 3.5 out of 5.(less)
A well-written overview of the political and personal forces that lead to independence, partition and war between Pakistan and India, focusing particu...moreA well-written overview of the political and personal forces that lead to independence, partition and war between Pakistan and India, focusing particularly on the relationship between Jawaharlal Nehru and Edwina Mountbatten.
What particularly pleased me about this book was its value use as an 'addendum' to Freedom at Midnight. "Freedom" follows Mohandas Gandhi and Louis Mountbatten through 1947-48; Tunzelmann focuses instead on Nehru, Edwina Mountbatten, and (to a far lesser degree) Jinnah. Taken together, these two books complement each other beautifully. Tunzelmann also points out Mountbatten's exaggerations, extremely helpful if (like me) you took "Freedom at Midnight" at face value.
I'd like to mention especially the biographies of all the major players at the start of the book - they are wonderfully concise, and skip historical details in order to quickly provide a flavour of the character described. From my readins of previous biographies of Gandhi, I can confirm that although they skip many of the key events in his life, they yet manage to give the reader a deep, enduring impression of his personality, history and circumstance of Gandhi, normally only accessible to those who have waded through the thickest of his biographies.
My biggest disappointment was the focus on Nehru and the Mountbattens; I was mislead by the title to suppose that the author meant to focus on Partition as seen from both sides of the new borders.
I'd've rated this book a 3/5 or 3.5/5.0 if it weren't for the author's sharp and witty prose, which was a delight to read. Even if you're familiar with the history of this period, the writing ensures that this book is something you must try at least once.(less)