There’s nothing like a bout of flu to help you catch up on your reading! I read three interesting books in the last few days.
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson is a debut novel about a 68-year-old widower living in a small village in Essex, England. His life is quiet and rather lonely until he becomes involved with the 58-year-old Pakistani widow who owns the village shop. Feelings between them grow, but everything gets complicated by family obligations and duties, not to mention the bossy village ladies who rope both Major Pettigrew and Mrs Ali into helping with a disastrous country club dance. I really enjoyed the dry humor and warm heart of this novel. The climax seemed a little too much like a Bollywood melodrama, but I’m pretty sure it was deliberate. I hope the author has another good one in the works.
Operation Mincemeat by Ben McIntyre is the true story of a top secret plot in 1943 that successfully misdirected the Nazis into believing that the Allies would invade Greece instead of Sicily. British Intelligence took the corpse of an itinerant Welshman who died of phosphorus poisoning, dressed it as a British officer, attached a briefcase filled with false papers, and then had a submarine float the body onto a beach in Southern Spain. They hoped the Spanish would leak the false papers to the Germans, leading them to believe an invasion of Greece was the next big Allied target. This is not the first book published about Operation Mincemeat, but it’s the most complete story, since it incorporates official secrets which were only recently made public. Parts of the story are very funny, others macabre, and it all makes for a fascinating read.
The Lost City of Z by David Grann is about the explorer Percy Harrison Fawcett, who disappeared in the Amazon in 1925 while searching for a lost civilization deep in the rainforest. It’s one of those enduring mysteries of history, like Amelia Earhart’s disappearance, that has captured the imagination of generations. Grann himself went into the Amazon to try to find out what happened to Fawcett. His adventures are interwoven with the story of Fawcett’s expedition and subsequent rescue attempts over the years. To tell you what Grann found, or didn’t find, would spoil the book, so read it yourself!
Strange fact: in three of the last five books I’ve read, howler monkeys are mentioned. What’s the deal with howler monkeys? Why are howler monkeys suddenly so popular?