Occasionally a book arrives for review and I send it off to The Tinker for a first read because it's right up his street. As the world now knows, he's 82, going on 83 and a very discerning and avid reader so the book will either receive a resounding seal of approval and make its way off around the octogenarian circuit, or be handed back to me with the whataloadofoldcodswallop epithet.
Does anyone ever ask octogenarians to review books?
Are they an audience who are consulted and considered regularly by publishers?
I suspect not but they are here. Think of the lifetime of reading and experience they bring to a book and let me tell you they have no truck with political correctness either.If these books make it through the fiery furnace of the Octos then they are truly worth reading.
Agent ZigZag, The True Wartime Story of Eddie Chapman Lover, Betrayer, Hero, Spy by Ben Macintyre and published by Bloomsbury came back basking in not stellar but galactic praise and The Tinker was mightily impressed with it.Thought it was going to be as dry and dust but couldn't put it down by page ten. One of those where you just have to know what happens next and I suspect one of those that would be loved by all fans of dangerous books for boys.
I haven't read the book but I gather Eddie Chapman, World War Two espionage maestro, might have been working for both the Germans and the British at the same time and was therefore a man of many contradictions.
"Inside the traitor lay a patriot, inside the villain a man of conscience. The problem for Chapman, his spymasters and his many lovers was to know where one ended and the other began."
By all accounts Eddie struck The Tinker as a likeable villain, no ethics, no morals, would steal from his own mother and yet there was an honesty aNd faithfulness to a friend or a cause even while he was double crossing them.The Tinker was intrigued, was Eddie's criss-crossing one side to the other about courage or a desire for adventure and a bit of complexity to his life?
He certainly received no financial reward and clearly the Germans valued him more than the British, they awarded Eddie the Iron Cross, the British didn't see fit to offer anything.
Eddie a spy until his final days and this book apparently very moving in the last pages when he finally meets his German spy master.
Another book which is still doing the octo-rounds is one sent to me ages ago and they've all swooped on it eagerly. The Long Exile A True Story of Deception and Survival Amongst the Inuit of the Canadian Arctic by Melanie McGrath published by Orion and I haven't set eyes on the book for months so forgive me for lifting plot details from the Times online.
In the early 1920s, while filming Nanook of the North, his famous documentary about the Canadian Arctic, Robert Flaherty had a brief affair with an Inuit woman and fathered a son. Thirty years later, Josephie Flaherty, brought up among his mother’s people, was one of the unwilling guinea pigs in a Canadian government experiment to resettle Inuit in Arctic wastelands. McGrath’s scrupulously researched, skilfully written story of what Josephie endured in the unwelcoming far north is heartbreaking – and made even more poignant by the involvement of the unacknowledged son of the man who did more than anyone to create the outside world’s image of the Inuit.
Reports back tell me that they've all learnt things they didn't really
know having grown up with the film version of Nanook of the North since childhood, and the book portrays it all with huge sadness. "Fancy tricking
them into thinking they were heading for a land of plenty when there
wasn't a single thing to be shot for dinner".This didn't go down well.
I've plenty more books to send on the Octo-circuit so more thoughts from them soon. Meanwhile they've all been reading anything and everything they can on The American Civil War and the last I heard they fancied a Greyhound Bus trip around the historic sites.Now going along as "carer" for the Caribbean cruise was one thing and seemed like my duty, but I'm keeping quiet about the Greyhound bus trip.