Oh no! Not another WW II novel! Fear not. This is funny. Sardonic, and full of cynical actors, movie-makers and writers. Young Welsh woman Catlin finds herself making short propaganda films for the MoI, then drafted to assist a long-time writing duo: blasé, shrewd Buckley and perpetually somnolent Parfitt. Despite the never-ending rounds of governmental interference, a full length feature film is going to be made about a heroic Dunkirk evacuation. It’s supposed to be the true story of twin girls who take their father’s boat without permission and who succeed in bringing 50 soldiers back to Dover. Naturally, when real life proves to be not quite cinematic enough, liberties are taken, including the insertion of an imaginary American journalist so the film will be of more interest to the Yanks.
Another invented participant in the rescue is Uncle Frank, played by a classic character. Ambrose Hilliard is the very model of a shallow, egotistical has-been actor whose glory days are well in the past. His selfishness is monumental and Bill Nighy probably had a great time playing him in the film version of the book. Throughout all the difficulties and stuff-ups of making the movie is the background of the Blitz and I don’t think it’s ever been so well described. There’s a real sense of the weariness it caused and the doggedness required to get through yet another day. The food privations are spirit-dampening. Brits gamely facing Christmas mince tarts made with turnips for instance. In fact the whole era - from the aging thespians desperate for work to the people working for Madame Tussaud’s to the self righteous wife of the Methodist minister deeply concerned about sexual sinning - is brilliantly evoked. It sounds like a recipe for glumness but it’s anything but. Often, when books are described as laugh out loud funny you’re hard pressed to crack a smile but so diverting are the characters and so clever and droll are many authorial wisecracks that you probably will find yourself chuckling. The humour of jaded people has never been so good. There is one really sad thing that happens that you really wished hadn’t, but that’s life. And war.
- Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: BLACK SWAN; 1 edition (15 January 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0552774715
- ISBN-13: 978-0552774710
- Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.6 x 19.8 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 281 g
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 257,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)