WWW Wednesday. This meme is from shouldbereading.
• What did you recently finish reading?
Anne Bronte, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall–the Victorian 50 Shades of Grey! Reading that, it was interesting reflecting that these three vicarage spinsters had within a year or so published books that were regarded as infamous shockers, and that without their gender being known! (see link above for longer review)
I’ve finished, and am in the middle of a haphazard look . . .
. . . at the fascinating evolution of, and effect of, private armies in World War II, specifically the North African campaign, after reading Rick Atkinson’s An Army at Dawn. It’s a terrific book, but the more I thought about it, the more I wondered what he’d left out as he focused so strongly on American commanders and front line grunts. There seemed some lacunae with respect to British forces, and when I thought over all the elements that shifted the advantage from Rommel to the Allies, I was dissatisfied by the lack of discussion of the effect of the SAS and the LRDG–a fascinating bunch whose behind-the-lines tracks had been laid down by adventuring archaeologists!
Well, I’ve found some rip-snorting reads specifically about these groups (V. Cowles’ classic The Phantom Major; Alan Hoe’s admiring biography of SAS’s David Stirling; the quixotic Vladimir Pentiakoff’s memoir Popski’s Private Army; Popski’s lieutenant, Park Yunnie, in own take Fighting with Popski’s Private Army; and I’m making my way through Gavin Mortimer’s Stirling’s Men, which furnishes a more balanced take, but so far is not satisfying me with an analysis of the effect of these guys. There probably is no definitive view, not surprising considering fronts hundreds of miles across, and engagements of a quarter of a million human beings on either side, not counting those squeezed in the middle.
What are you currently reading?
Aside from the above, I have three really good books going, depending on where I am in the house when I catch a bit of reading time. There’s Scott Anderson’s Lawrence of Arabia, whose subtitle pretty much sums up where he’s going with it: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East.
There’s William Dalrymple’s The White Mughals, Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth Century India, which, around the Madama Butterfly-like history of James Achilles Kirkpatrick, who converted to Islam to marry exquisitely beautiful teenage Khair un-Nissa, illustrates how English people fell into the complicated mosaic of life in India, were ravished by it, and adopted and adapted far more than nineteenth century British ever acknowledged.
Finally, on the e-reader I have Anthony Adolph’s descriptive and character-focused biography of Henry Jermyn: The King’s Henchman, the Stuart Spymaster and Architect of the British Empire. This is an immensely readable look at the powers behind the thrones of mid seventeenth century in western Europe.
For my epic fantasy/space opera/sf fix, I’ve been reading Lindsay Buroker while waiting for the latest Andrea K. Höst and Ankaret Wells releases.