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Eastern Approaches [Paperback]

Fitzroy Hew Maclean
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)

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Book Description

28 Mar 1991
This is the classic true adventure story of a man who by the pen, the sword and the diplomatic pouch influenced some of the most significant events of our era. Here Fitzroy Maclean recounts his extraordinary adventures in Soviet Central Asia, in the Western Desert, where he specialized in hair-raising commando-style raids behind enemy lines, and with Tito's partisans during the last months of the German occupation of Yugoslavia. An enthralling narrative, brilliantly told, "Eastern Approaches" is also a vivid personal view of episodes that have already become part of history.

Product details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (28 Mar 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140132716
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140132717
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 189,991 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Maclean's classic emerges freshly with its mixture of urbanity, passion and shrewdness ... He is witty, clear-eyed and the most elegant of narrative stylists' Observer 'An absorbing mixture of military adventure, political judgement, urbane wit, cool humour and surprising incident' Financial Times 'Remarkable. The graphic writing reveals the ruthless man of action ...' The Times Literary Supplement 'A classic. An unconventional man's unconventional war. The best book you will read this year' - Colonel Tim Collins 'One of the best narratives of action ever written' Punch --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Maclean was a British diplomat who while in Russia became one of the first westerners to explore Central Asia during the Soviet rule. He worked with the British special forces in the North African desert and worked on behalf of the allies with the partisans in Yugoslavia during the Second world war.

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SLOWLY gathering speed, the long train pulled out of the Gare du Nord. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The end of the Great Game? 20 Oct 2004
In one breathtaking, breathless volume Fitzroy Maclean tells of his career as diplomat and soldier from 1937-45.
The first part of the book deals with his diplomatic career in the USSR. Maclean quickly tires of the endless cycle of diplomatic receptions and the restrictions upon travel, and decides to see more of the USSR, particularly the Central Asian republics that were still being assimilated into the Union. He sets off on a series of enlightening journeys (with little or no official approval!) that take him far from Moscow to the legendary cities of Samarkand and Bokhara. This is fine travel writing indeed, Maclean giving a very powerful sense of what the Stalinist era was like and also of the exoticism of Central Asia. There are also powerful descriptions of the Stalist purges of 1938 and the accompanying "show trials".
The second part of the book covers Maclean's exploits with the SAS in the North African deserts and the Middle East. Resigning from his diplomatic post to join the Army (using the convenient excuse of becoming an MP!) Maclean serves as a private in a Scottish regiment for some time before being commmissioned and sent to the Middle East. Here he falls in with David Stirling and becomes an early member of the SAS - his stories of their training, tactics and raids are powerful indeed, matched by evocative descriptions of the African landscapes. Maclean moves on to form SAS units in the Middle East, but before long is summoned to go behind enemy lines as Churchill's military representative to Tito's Yugoslav partisans.
The final third of the book mixes military action and politics, with Maclean organising the support for the Partisans and representing them to the Allies.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars He lived so many lives in so many worlds 23 Jun 2004
These are the memoirs of the early years of Sir Fitzroy Maclean, diplomat, soldier and politician. An extraordinary account of the formative years of an exceptionally gifted young man. Maclean's memoirs are roughly divided into three sections. The first deals with his time in Moscow before the war; the second with his experiences in the Second World War in north Africa; and the third recounts the time he spent in Yugoslavia towards the end of the war as Churchill's personal envoy to Tito.
Maclean was stationed in Moscow at a time when the embassy staff there was still quite small. Black tie dinners and frequent hob-nobbing with diplomats from other legations. As someone who has been to Russia ten times in the last fifteen years, the accuracy of his observations astounded me. It may read as exaggeration, but his tales of drunken train journeys, the smell of BO and cabbage in the tube; the depressingly morose looks of Russians in the street conflicting strongly with their demeanour when behind closed doors; the stifling influence of the security forces and Soviet bureaucracy; all these still ring true today. Most of the space devoted to the time he spent in the Soviet Union does not deal, however, with Moscow (with the notable exception of the last and biggest show trial of the Stalin era), but those regions further south. Whether he went there as a spy or whether we are to believe him when he says that he went there as a tourist, out of plain curiosity, Fitzroy was one of the first Europeans to venture so far south in one hundred years. He captures the sights, sounds and smells of Kazakhstan, Uzbekhistan and Afghanistan amazingly well. How easy to recognize Boukhara and Samarkand, Almaty and the Kush in his wonderfully descriptive writing.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding adventures 5 Sep 2001
A marvellous and incredible true story. It divides neatly into three parts, each of which would stand up as a fantastic book on its own. The first chapter contains an incredible insight into Russia, full of tales of travel to mystic places, then onto Stalin's show trials - the only foreign observer who could speak Russian present, Then its behind enemy lines with the SAS and finally into Tito's Yugoslavia. On the way be becomes an MP, not for political ends you understand, he just wanted to get out of the diplomatic corps. The adventures this man has are simply extraordinary. The writing is cool, underplayed and intelligent without being turgid or cumbersome. The man is something of a legend and it's easy to understand why
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars War Horse - not Water Horse 29 Sep 2009
By G. M. Sinstadt VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
What to make of the only other review here that purports to deal with Eastern Approaches? The review plainly refers to a children's book about a Water Horse. Two out of six people found the review helpful. If, on the strength of that, they bought a copy of Eastern Approaches they will have been mightily surprised but surely also hugely rewarded.

I came to Eastern Approaches by way of a glowing testimonial in Peter Hopkirk's The Great Game (see my review elsewhere). The front cover calls Maclean's memoir "The best book you will read this year" and for once a clever line in a blurb is hard to challenge. Eastern Approaches will linger in the memory for many a year. It was, after all, first published in 1949 and remains in print.

Fitzroy Maclean - later Sir Fitzroy - tells the story of eight years in his life, from 1937 to 1945. It begins with Maclean as a junior diplomat in Paris, then at the epicentre of European upheaval. He breaks with all precedent by applying for a transfer to the supposedly dead end of the British embassy in Moscow. Once there, he becomes a shrewd observer of a Russia in search of identity; meanwhile, on his frequent (and seemingly often overstayed) leaves he explores - by train, bus, clapped-out car and ferry, on horse and camel, and on foot - the terra incognita of Caucasia.

When war is declared in 1939 Maclean wants to become a soldier but diplomatic rules prevent it. He discovers that diplomacy and politics are not allowed to mix, gets himself proposed as a parliamentary candidate and thus forces the Foreign Office to demand his resignation. He is elected Conservative member for Lancaster but before taking his place at Westminster, enrols as a private soldier.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars They don't make em like they used to...
Paris to Moscow to India to Persia to Moscow to London to Edinburgh to Cairo to "Somewhere in the Western Desert" to Yugoslavia. Read more
Published 15 months ago by JGP
5.0 out of 5 stars Eric Ambler in the flesh
It is hard to believe that one single man could have had so much adventure. A first-hand account of some aspects of WWII (Libya, Yugoslavia), but also adventure in pre-war Persia. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Alfredo Pastor Bodmer
5.0 out of 5 stars one of my best books
Amasing reading. I am mostly for Danish and German Langue but have tried to read in English in the last time and it goes very well. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Bengt Borghegn
5.0 out of 5 stars Eastern Approaches
I borrowed this book from my father and enjoyed it so much I bought my own copy. A fascinating account of his adventures. A real page turner.
Published 18 months ago by Janet Maddison
5.0 out of 5 stars of historical importance
I came back to reading this after a gap of many years, delighted to obtain via Amazon a 1949 hardback edition in remarkable condition. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Dennis Argall
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable read
Am loving reading this book Its just like being there with him the descriptions of the conditions, countryside and people that he meets are excellent.
Published on 3 July 2012 by Tim
4.0 out of 5 stars Impressive career - a must read staple for anyone interested in the...
Extremely happy to stumble upon this work, as it gives a very interesting view of a foreigner on the insides of the USSR pre-war. Read more
Published on 22 Jun 2012 by Zhangir
4.0 out of 5 stars The tale of an adventurer
The sub title is 'the tale of a British action hero' and this well describes the narrative. I am a keen student of the Second World War but was unaware of many of these actions... Read more
Published on 30 Aug 2011 by B. Michael Shimmin
5.0 out of 5 stars eastern approaches
Iconic and well written book of daring do from a generation now gone. Excellent account of the intrigue in the Balkans during the second world war / civil war in Jugoslavia. Read more
Published on 27 Aug 2011 by simon
A TRULY FANTASTIC BOOK! Fitzroy Maclean writes very fluidly and engagingly of his experiences, first as a member of the British Foreign Service in the Soviet Union between 1937 and... Read more
Published on 9 April 2011 by MONTGOMERY
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