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The Riddle of the Sands: A Record of Secret Service (Penguin Popular Classics) Paperback – 27 Sep 2007


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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (27 Sept. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140621431
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140621433
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 1.1 x 18.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 485,809 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

A thriller anticipating Frederick Forsyth and Len Deighton . . . never loses its pace. --Independent on Sunday --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Erskine Childers was born in Ireland in 1870 of Anglo-Irish parents. Educated at Cambridge, he worked at the House of Commons before volunteering at the outbreak of the South African War. In 1910 Childers resigned his post in the Commons to work for the Irish cause and later did reconnaissance work during WWI. After the war he settled in Ireland and joined the Republican Army at the establishment of the Free State. He was amongst those arrested and shot in the civil war that followed.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 19 Sept. 2000
Format: Paperback
Set in the period before the First World War, this gripping story tells of the adventures of a yachtsman and his non-sailing friend as they uncover disturbing events in the eastern North Sea in a small boat.
For sailors and non-sailors alike, this is a classic spy novel where the protagonists' curiosity and sense of adventure combine with sinister military planning in the misty waters around the Frisian islands. If you enjoy historical novels, this is a great read.
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61 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Ian Thumwood on 27 Oct. 2003
Format: Paperback
This novel, the first ever spy story, is truly of it's era. The story's heroes may seem quaint by the standards of the 21st Century (it is interesting to observe the manners between foes!!)but Childer's novel accurately predicted that Britain's main threat at the turn of the 20th Century was Germany rather than the more traditional foe of France. Consequently, this book caused shock waves in England and Childers even received the wrath of Winston Churchill such was it's radical prediction. Whilst no invasion via the Frisian Islands materialised, it is allged that this book prompted the navy to develop it's base at Scarpa Flow. Clearly this book was explosive stuff one hundred years ago!
The story concerns two men who uncover the covert plans of the German navy whilst under the pretext of hunting for duck. Whilst the first half of the book concerns itself with aspects of sailing and builds up a tremendous atmosphere that evokes the period and bleakness of the coast of Germany, the pace accelerates as the incredible truth eventually becomes apparent...
Having re-visited this book over and over again, for me it represents my defining image of the twilight of the British Empire. This is a must for all lovers of well -written spy and adventure stories.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mark Pack TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 19 Nov. 2011
Format: Paperback
Several years after The Riddle of the Sands was first published and became a bestseller, one of the first British spy cases came before the German courts - the so-called Brandon-Trench affair, named after the two Britons (correctly) convicted of spying. During the court case one of the lawyers held up a copy of The Riddle of the Sands and asked the accused spies if they had read it, for they were accused of being bungling gentleman spies sniffing around the very locations such as Nodeney and Wangerooge that feature heavily in The Riddle of the Sands, which also features two British gentlemen turned spies. However, whilst Brandon and Trench were convicted (one admitted to hearing of the book, the other to liking it so much they read it three times), the heroes of The Riddle of the Sands were successful, unearthing a secret anti-British German plot.

In the decades after its publication two wars took place between Britain and Germany, both heavily featuring action at sea and invasion scares, so making the book seem eerily prescient. It also earned its place in literary history as the first modern espionage novel - there is action in the book, but it is principally about unravelling a mystery.

In other respects the passage of time has treated the book less well - from the racism in the opening sentence through to the two main (male) characters and their attitude towards women and talking about women (though in fairness it is both the writing style and the attitude towards women which has dated so badly). Moreover, so many subsequent espionage books have appeared and the genre developed so much that this original work is rather overshadowed by its successors save for having been the first.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Sarah J. Marquis on 12 April 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a beautiful book, I loved every second, have read it cover to cover many times. The story brilliantly captures the nervousness of the period leading up to the Great War. The atmosphere is amazing, you can almost see the cold windswept dunes of the German coast. The tension builds fast to the climax and the ambiguous ending just leaves you wishing that there was more.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Simon Esposito on 13 Jun. 2012
Format: Hardcover
The little Collector's Library volumes are of beautiful quality, with fine paper and sewn bindings - and now offer a perfect alternative to the bigger Everyman's editions when you want a permanent copy.

This is a fairly disappointing volume in the series, however, because of the clumsy and simplified redrawing of some of the maps. The original book included facsimiles of Admiralty charts, and particularly important were the close-scale ones of the Frisian coast. In no other work of fiction are the maps so important: they are genuinely characters in the novel in themselves, something much more than just 'local colour'. This is after all a story of yachting and spying out a mysterious landscape, and the heroes spend a lot of time puzzling over and discussing these same charts (not in a way that slows down the story, I should add!). There is little in them that is actually redundant to the text.

There must be other reprints around that do a better job of the maps, surely!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Listener on 11 Oct. 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a book that I have returned to more times than I can count.

It has a great story line and to twenty first century eyes it provides a fascinating insight into life before the Great War. But that's not why I love it.

What brings me back time and again is the descriptions of the sea, the privations of small boat sailing, Davies's love of the sea and his lack of self awareness of his outstanding seamanship. For so many of us who sail small boats (or who started in small boats) this book is our ultimate piece of escapism and Davies our ultimate role model.

Yes, I know I should say that my favourite book is "Persuasion" - and indeed it is on the bookshelf of my boat along with "The Riddle of the Sands" - but (heaven forbid) when I have to abandon ship and only have room for one in my grab bag....... I'm not sure that I wouldn't grab this!
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