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Eastern approaches Unknown Binding – 1967

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Unknown Binding, 1967
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  • Unknown Binding
  • ASIN: B0014LU9ZU
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)

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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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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Peter Fenelon on 20 Oct. 2004
Format: Paperback
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 By Mr. L. F. P. Dubois on 23 Jun. 2004
Format: Paperback
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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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Gs-trentham VINE VOICE on 29 Sept. 2009
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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