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Mark Meynell "quaesitor" (London, UK)
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A Short Book About Drawing
A Short Book About Drawing
by Andrew Marr
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 10.20

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A drawer's delight, 12 Feb 2014
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This book is a delight - and made me itch to get out my long forgotten sketchpad and pencils. There is an added poignancy to it because it was completed soon before Marr had his stroke - and so the frustration brought by his incapacity is felt all the more keenly.

But what this does particularly well is to give the enthusiastic amateur hope that any graphic efforts are not in vain. The book is full of Marr's own sketches, whether pen and ink, pencil or (following his hero Hockney) on an iPad. Some are clearly better than others - but he is not afraid to be very self-critical where he feels it is warranted. This of course adds tot he learning experience from the book.

This is a great give-away book for any needing inspiration to get cracking...


Archduke Franz Ferdinand Lives!: A World without World War I
Archduke Franz Ferdinand Lives!: A World without World War I
by Richard Ned Lebow
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 14.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Uncertainties of Human Contingency, 25 Jan 2014
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I have stood at the very spot where Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were shot by Gavrilo Princip 100 years ago. And the impossible “What If” question occurred to me even then. So when I noticed that eminent historian Ned Lebow had published an examination of the issue, I leapt at it. The assassination was such a fluke, so preventable, so absurd that the yearning for a different outcome of that moment is great. As he says at the start (having summarised some of the counterfactual options),
"None of these what-ifs strains our understanding of the world because most royal processions do not stray from their intended routes, and most security details would have rushed the archduke and his wife to safety at the first signs of violence. In this instance, the so-called factual, not the counterfactual, is what strikes us as unrealistic and incredible." (p16)

Franz Ferdinand LivesLebow’s shrewd strategy here is to avoid offering definitive counterfactuals, and instead presents a number of different options, loosely grouped under the headings of Best Plausible World and Worst Plausible World. He constructs both these poles on the assumption that the First World War doesn’t happen, or at least certainly not in the same way. His contention is that the only country seeking war in 1914 was Germany, quoting the 1910 German foreign minister Alfred von Kiderlen-Wächter as rightly observing, “If we do not conjure up a war into being, certainly no one else will do so.” (p18). He suggests that there was a 3-year window from 1914 for the possibility of a war if the archduke survives. It becomes increasingly unlikely after 1917, and before then, would have required ”another acute crisis and equally irresponsible behaviour by the great powers.” (p218)

IN THE BEST POSSIBLE WORLD
Some fascinating consequences are suggested: there is a revolution in Russia of sorts, but the Bolsheviks don’t eventually win, the British Empire survives the 20th Century (with India having become a Dominion rather than gaining independence), America is one of a handful of global powers (rather than ending the century as superpower). German becomes a global lingua franca, alongside English and others. But interestingly, the cause of civil rights, fighting anti-Semitism and other social issues are not as developed in this counterfactual as they actually were. And in the arts world, America does not enjoy the fruit of the 100s of talented people fleeing Nazi Germany (because without the grievances of Versailles and sling a war, history offers Hitler no rallying points). Many stay in Europe, opting for the mildly less autocratic world of Britain (at least when compared to the surviving German and Austro-Hungarian empires).

IN THE WORST POSSIBLE WORLD
This is truly chilling. Germany eventually gets the atomic bomb, and so does Britain. Both societies develop what Lebow describes as “fear-based political cultures reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984.” Interestingly, Henry Kissinger never leaves Bavaria (his family fled the Nazis in 1938, settling in the US) but grows up to exploit his great talents in German politics. His application of realpolitik, for example, has disastrous consequences. But various miscalculations and missteps by European leaders result in the tragedy of a nuclear war with London and Berlin and other cities being completely obliterated. There are other aspects of this world that are grim – in common with the best plausible, it never experiences civil rights improvements.

In fact, one of his most striking, if provocative, insights is that the only place in the factual world that is better off without the First World War is America. The 1WW and 2WW damaged America the least (of all the combatants), its economy boomed after the 2WW and it ended the 20th Century, as said, as sole superpower. In both best and worst plausible suggestions, it comes out with nothing like this dominance.

SOME FUN
Obviously this is all conjecture, but it is educated. What makes it so enjoyable is the occasional flights of fantasy that he indulges in. Some of my favourites were:
- Richard Nixon doesn’t end up in politics but earns a living as a prosperity gospel preacher (p125)
- Because of the lack of a civil rights movement, Obama doesn’t end up in the White House, but he does become Governor of Hawaii.
- Churchill never becomes PM of course, but he is Colonial Secretary (having now joined the Labour Party!), and he ends up sharing the Nobel Peace Prize with his Indian counterpart, Jawaharlal Nehru.

SO IS HISTORY BUNK THEN?!...
But one of the key lessons of the book seems to be that because so much of history depends on flukes, contingencies and human incompetence, we are inescapably stranded in our present. We can’t truly learn lessons from the past (because it contains so few total inevitabilities) and as a corollary, we can’t play pundit or prophet (because events hardly ever proceed in linear fashion). An hilarious example comes from nineteenth century transport planners in New York city, concerned about the rise in horse-drawn traffic in Manhattan. They feared that if the growth trends persisted, by 1950 populated parts of the centre would be under 6 feet of manure. The problem was that “They failed to consider the possibility that other means of transportation, notably, the automobile, would supplant the horse. And within a few years of this dire prediction, horses began to disappear from city streets.” (p205)
"This investigation of the past should teach us to be wary about predictions. They are generally linear and fail to take into account system-lived effects, confluences, or events that bring about major transformations. Linear projections rest on the assumption that the future will be more or less like the present and that we know why the present is the way it is. our understanding of the present is based on our understanding of the past, and that, I have shown, rests on the belief that past events were overdetermined. After all, nobody would draw universal lessons from events they recognise to be highly contingent. The more we use counterfactuals to unpack history and reveal its contingency, the more we see the fallacy in drawing lessons from these events. Many of our assumptions and theories about international relations come from the putative lessons of World War I and II. These lessons rest on the untested – and generally unsupportable – assumption that these events are general, not unique, overdetermined, and not highly contingent. Caveat emptor!" (p238)

One can’t help wonder why history is done at all. After all, Lebow has dedicated his life’s work to its pursuit. But at the very least, his is a salutary warning for analysts and pundits alike. And for laymen like myself at least, his suggestions make a lot of sense. I guess this study merely serves to underscore how mesmerisingly complex and intertwined human affairs really are. It puts human beings in their place!

This is a fascinating book – I loved it and highly recommend it (despite its current price).


Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death: Reflections on Memory and Imagination
Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death: Reflections on Memory and Imagination
by Otto Dov Kulka
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 11.29

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting, elusive, searing, 19 Nov 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A boy of ten, who finds himself reunited with his father... but separated from his mother.
A world that has brutalised and destroyed his child's security of hearth and home.
Ushered into "the corridor of lights, to the Metropolis of Death" (p6)
Welcome to Auschwitz.

No body came out of Theresienstadt alive - but then Otto dov Kulka and his father Erich did; his mother did not. The dark lottery of life which saw them placed in one lineup and not another, one barracks and not another. But their survival would haunt them both for the rest of their lives. As Kulka junior revisits Auschwitz and Theresienstadt many years later, he finds himself trying to come to terms with its grotesque legacy. For it can never be shaken off. "I am held captive there as a life prisoner, bound and fettered with chains that cannot be undone." (p9)

But how do you articulate that? What words? What phrases? Nothing can do justice to it. Which is why this book must be less a memoir, more a disparate stream of consciousness and memories. In fact, its origins lie tapes of a dictated narrative - and the printed version clearly conveys that. Here a man who has become an eminent 20th Century historian (a professor emeritus at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem) flows from thought to disjointed thought. At times it is not always hard to follow.

But how could it be? For at the heart of the horror of Auschwitz & Theresienstadt lies their irrational rationality - the perfectly ordered mechanised process of barbarism and genocide. And the reflections on a brutal past experienced by a 10-13 year old can only be fragmentary. Kulka is an eminent historian - whose goal has been historical truth and impartiality. So he has avoided issues directly related to the Holocaust. This book gives some understanding of why.

The two most telling fragments in this remarkable, vital and profound book simply cannot be erased from my mind's eye.
- the memory of singing in a children's choir in the "family camp" - and a choir conductor teaching them to sing Schiller's Ode to Joy from the last movement of Beethoven's 9th. But more or less in the next door building sits one of Auschwitz's crematoria. Thus separated by just a few yards and a couple of walls, there are the Everest and Mariana trench of humanity's scope, the best and worst. Kulka is haunted by why the conductor taught them THAT piece, THERE.
- the recurring dream of meeting the infamous Dr Mengele when he returns as an adult, finding that he is now a tour guide, despite everyone knowing his identity.

But easily the most heart-rending, but most significant, element of this book is the big question. Where was God? (Or is this, as many rabbis and others have said, a forbidden question?) His startling reflection, seeing him as a son of Job, the great archetypical Jewish survivor of horror, is breathtaking. "And I saw - the terrible grief of God, who was there. All that time. In His image." (p98) He even has the audacity to use a word like incarnation - a God who feels and enters the pain of the persecuted. And that notion is bold indeed... it even sounds, dare I utter the word in this context, strangely messianic...?

This is now a must-read on any list for those trying to grapple with the holocaust. It surely joins the great literary ranks of Primo Levi's If This Is a Man / The Truce; Elie Wiesel's Night and Viktor Frankl's Man's Search For Meaning.

Heart-rending, but essential.


Has Marriage for Love Failed?
Has Marriage for Love Failed?
by Pascal Bruckner
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 16.28

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gallic philosophising applied to a very real contemporary problem, 11 Nov 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I can rather imagine sitting at Pascal Bruckner's feet outside a Paris cafe on the left bank, sipping espresso and drawing on Gitanes - there's something very gallic about this accessible but fascinating and provocative exploration of a difficult subject. This extended essay is readable, thoughtful and fair (on the whole). He has few illusions about where we've found ourselves in post-Enlightenment Europe - and perhaps the French do understand the effects and fall-out of the Enlightenment better than most. After all, they cast off the shackles of the ancien regime far more rigorously and thoroughly than anyone else (including their revolutionary co-belligerents, the United States).

The problem here is simple: "Married life used to be a prison cell; now it seems to be transforming itself into a sobering-up cell. We have not found the remedy for the sufferings of love, any more than our ancestors did." (p27) One of the problems is having expelled God from our garden, we have nothing to put in His place, and are adrift - especially when it comes to the liberation of human relationships. So "we have `liberated' love, and now we have to teach it, in all its richness and refinements, to a younger generation corrupted by the twofold discourse of cheap romanticism and X-rated films." (p55)

There's no going back of course: "These days, we are more alone because we are more free, even if this freedom is accompanied by anxiety; it is not clear that we would tolerate the constraints and petty annoyances that obtained in earlier times.... The pious stability that we admire in past centuries was a stability of coercion that we would not longer want." (p57) But love (as Bruckner and many understand it) is not enough to hold people together (as the equally rising divorce rates amongst the secular, and more perversely, the religious testify). The appeal of this philosopher is then to encourage more limited expectations - to educate people to the difference between the passionate and daily commitment. There is a need to recognise, he says, that "Conjugal happiness is the art of the possible, and not the exaltation of the impossible; it is the pleasure of constructing a common world together." (p77)

But this seems all well and good - but its wishful thinking. For the book's flaws lie in his rather insipid (despite his assumption of its passionate madness) definition of love - where the sacrifice, commitment, other-person centredness of love as it is has so often traditionally been defined? Without this mutual abdication of one's rights, surely it will always be doomed? But in a closed universe without a creator, and a society that is reduced to forcing individuals to construct reality with others, it is inevitable. So while he is optimistic that marriage for love needn't fail, I fear that there are few grounds for optimism if this is all that there is left with.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable read, however - full of interesting insights and observations (eg I bet you didn't know that Anglo-Saxons tend to avoid divorce during a recession, whereas the French are as likely to divorce then as any other time?!). The only reason for docking a star is the ludicrous price. I mean - 16.99 - absolutely ridiculous for a book of 87 pages.


China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know
China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know
by Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.69

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent guide for the China novice, 11 Nov 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I write this as a total China novice: I've never been there, though have always had friends from Hong Kong or the mainland for as long as i can remember. It has always been a source of fascination, but only of a fairly ignorant kind. This book has served to set me straight, and given me enough fuel for further investigation and reading. Its key aim is to explain how the nation has reached the point of being 2nd biggest economy (and will soon be 1st). And it does a convincing job (or so it seems to me). Those who are better informed may disagree of course - but I was sufficiently gripped and felt well informed.

The key moments and influences on Chinese history are covered briefly and speedily - especially helpful are the sections explaining the significance of Confucius, and the checkered history of his influence down the centuries (in other words, his thought was nothing like as universally accepted as contemporary propaganda would suggest). The relationship between PRC & Taiwan is particularly well-explained.

Wasserstrom is clearly a scholar who holds China in great esteem and even affection. This is not to say that he is rose-tinted about the problems and questions, but where this book really comes into its own is towards the end in its dismantling of the mutual suspicions and misunderstandings. There are many hot-button issues when it comes to the West's perceptions of China: gender-determined abortions & the one-child policy, 1989 in Tiananmen Square, Tibet, not to mention the communist ideology at the foundation of the nation. As so often, such issues are always much more complex than soundbites ever allow - especially for a country with was rich and diverse a history as this one. So it is helpful to have these explained more constructively - for example, he explains how many Chinese regard protestors for Tibetan independence as Americans might regard protestors for Hawaiian independence from he USA.

All in all - a readable, informative and interesting guide for novices.


Braun Cruzer 5 Rechargeable Foil Electric Shaver
Braun Cruzer 5 Rechargeable Foil Electric Shaver
Price: 45.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent product for its price, 25 Oct 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This feels great in the hand and after a full charge (takes several hours), it does a reasonably good job of shaving. As other reviewers have said, it does a good job for regular shaves, but is less handy for a fuller beard.
But at this discounted price, it is a real bargain, and definitely worth having - a great replacement for my rather old and now defunct shaver.


Martin Beck: The Abominable Man (Martin Beck Detective 07)
Martin Beck: The Abominable Man (Martin Beck Detective 07)
by Maj Sjowall
Edition: Audio CD

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A credible and gripping thriller, 3 Oct 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Martin Beck novels are classics which transformed the world of the detective fiction. If they seem a little clichéd now it is simply because so many copied them. But they were written by Sjöwall and Wahlöö with a clear social agenda - to expose the reality beneath the veneer of Sweden's 60s idyllic liberal society. This time, the focus of their penetrating gaze fixes on the police themselves, and the reality of 'bad apples' in the force. It is not so much a mystery as a gripping expose and procedural, leading up to something far more horrendous than the initial crime.

This adaptation is classic Radio 4 drama at its best. It is atmospheric, believable and beautifully acted. The soundscape complements the drama perfectly. The only feature that did frustrate me a little (and for which I docked a star) was the production's peculiar insistence on having two narrators - who sometimes even seemed to share sentences let alone paragraphs. Why not stick with just one. No problem with having a female voice running through (if the lack of female characters was a concern). But apart from that, it was gripping story-telling.


Popcultured: Thinking Christianly about Style, Media and Entertainment
Popcultured: Thinking Christianly about Style, Media and Entertainment
by Steve Turner
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.61

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why getting popcultured might not be such a bad thing after all, 6 Sep 2013
Matters pop-cultural are far more important than many realise. One of my favourite books of recent years on any subject is the brilliant Popologetics, Popular Culture in Christian Perspective by my friend Ted Turnau. But as I am a friend and a fan of Steve Turner's books, not least because he has a great way with words (I only wish he'd apply that to poetry again!) and has unrivalled experience in writing about the world of popular culture from a deeply theological perspective. So I was very excited by the arrival of his latest: Popcultured.

A book that I always recommend to anyone who wants to think about the arts in general (whether they are practitioners or followers) is Steve's brilliant Imagine: A Vision for Christians and the Arts. This is a follow-up of sorts, as he looks at a wide range of creative endeavour. What gives this unique authority, though, is that Steve has deliberately interacted with believers who are involved at high levels of these professions, including a host of familiar names that are well qualified by their professional experience to comment.

Each chapter is necessarily brief and introductory - but all are concluded with lists of follow-up reading and interaction. We might have expected a great deal of music, art and cinema (not least from this former music-critic), but he has written extensively in the past about music in particular. Instead, he deliberately opens eyes to the pop-cultural environment at its widest: so he focuses on journalism and then advertising, the modern obsessions with celebrity or thrill-seeking, fashion and comedy, technology and photography. He offers are some excellent insights into all of them, and for any who blithely consume, ignore or obsess, this will be an important book. Because most of us fail to give thought to a proper critique of what we imbibe (whether that is through indiscriminate panning or relishing) this is therefore an important read. As he says: "I hope that it will make you a better consumer, creator and critic and encourage you not to hide." (p56)

He himself models this goal in his own life, and he has certainly achieved that with Popcultured, in my view, This is not the last word on any of these topics, by any stretch. But for many it may well be the catalyst for serious engagement, and for that I am very grateful indeed that it is now out there.

Here are a few favourite snippets:
- On the Power of the Media: Most people don't change their minds about important moral issues because of a blinding revelation or an unassailable argument, but because of acclimatization, frequently orchestrated by the media. It just gets too hard to hold on to your convictions when they are constantly ignored or mocked. Malcolm Muggeridge, a prominent British journalist in the middle of the last century, used to give the illustration of a frog and boiling water.... Muggeridge said in 1975 that television "had provided the Devil with the greatest opportunity he ever had in human history." (p51)
- On Worldviews behind films: Stanley Kubrick... told Playboy, "The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it's hostile but that it is indifferent... However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light." (p65)
- On Movies: Bono once said that rock `n' roll had been very good at telling the story of what Johnny got up to with his girlfriend in the back of a car. What it wasn't accomplished at, and what he wanted U2 to achieve, was telling the story of what happened next. Movies are a great medium for following up the consequences of actions, but these knock-on effects have to be believable. (p75)
- On Celebrity: Pop star Jarvis Cocker noted that, "Becoming famous has taken the place of going to heaven in modern society. That's the place where your dreams will come true. It's an act of faith now. They thing that's going to sort things out." (p101)
- On Satire: In The Act of Creation, the best book ever written about the process of comedy, Arthur Koestler says, "The satirist's most effective weapon is irony. Its aim is to defeat the opponent on his own ground by pretending to accept his premises, his values, his methods of reasoning, in order to expose their implicit absurdity... Irony purports to take seriously what it odes not; it enters into the spirit of the other person's game to demonstrate that its rules are stupid or vicious. It's a subtle weapon, because the person who wilds it must have the imaginative power of seeing through the eyes of his opponent, of projecting himself into the other's mental world." (p153)
- On Advertising: In 1966 Marshall McLuhan predicted a world "where the ad will become a substitute for the product and all the satisfactions will be derived informationally from the ad." (p163)
- On Photography: "The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera," said the great documentary photographer Dorothea Lange. (p189)
- On Fiction: Simone Weil, the French writer, once observed that in real life nothing was so refreshing and sweet as good, and nothing so monotonous and boring as evil. "But", she added, "With fantasy it is the other way around. Fictional good is boring and flat, while fictional evil is varied, intriguing, attractive, and full of charm." (p211)

I'll close this what for me was one of the book's inspiring moments, near the end, in which he longed for creative excellence and integrity to be a means to communicate far more than a truth, a tale or an idea. For at its best it can communicate a world or even a cosmos. The perfect illustration of this is the wonderful art of Marilynne Robinson, author of the sublime Gilead and Housekeeping.
'A review on the New Yorker website by Mark O'Connell is an example of the effect that I think Christians should be striving for. He was writing about Marilynne Robinson, author of the novels Housekeeping and Gilead, and said that he loved her work for two main reasons. The first is the grace of her prose style, which he thinks got its grace from her vision. He said that he writing made him feel "what it must be like to live with a sense of the divine." The second is that it introduced him to a world that he would normally approach with "borderline hostility" and made him feel drawn to it. In conclusion he said, "She makes an atheist reader like myself capable of identifying with the sense of a fallen world that is filled with pain and sadness but also suffused with divine grace."
What I love about his commentary is that it shows a contact between writer and reader. The fact that Mark O'Connell then wrote about his feelings added to the discussion. I also love the fact that he sees her prose style as a product of her vision and can see the harmony between the world, the way she reports on the world and the insights she brings to bear on the world she sees. "Robinson's moral wisdom," she wrote, "seems inseparable from her gifts as a prose writer."' (p229-230)

Would that all believers working creatively could do that, whatever their medium.


Martin Beck: Murder at the Savoy (Martin Beck Detective 06)
Martin Beck: Murder at the Savoy (Martin Beck Detective 06)
by Maj Sjowall
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 6.47

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Evocative, well acted, and convincing, 2 Sep 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Martin Beck novels are classics which transformed the world of the detective fiction. If they seem a little clichéd now it is simply because so many copied them. But they were written by Sjöwall and Wahlöö with a clear social agenda - to expose the reality beneath the veneer of Sweden's 60s idyllic liberal society. And the victim of this particular tale (who dies in the first minute or so - so no plot spoilers here!) is a grasping and exploitative capitalist with shady deals in undesirable regimes (in this case Rhodesia and South Africa). So despite being nearly 45 years old, this has a very contemporary feel...

This adaptation is classic Radio 4 drama at its best. It is atmospheric, believable and beautifully acted. The soundscape complements the drama perfectly. The only feature that did frustrate me a little (and for which I docked a star) was the production's peculiar insistence on having two narrators - who sometimes even seemed to share sentences let alone paragraphs. Why not stick with just one. No problem with having a female voice running through (if the lack of female characters was a concern). But apart from that, it was gripping story-telling.


In Spies We Trust: The Story of Western Intelligence
In Spies We Trust: The Story of Western Intelligence
by Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 13.40

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A turbulent secretive relationship in the spotlight, 25 Aug 2013
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It is inevitable that the the Anglo-American security relationship roughly mirrors the wider shifts in the power balance between the two countries. What began with the UK and her empire's fledgling security services having the upper hand changed radically as the twentieth century went on - so that by the Cold War, America's NSA, CIA & FBI (and other agencies like the ONI) were clearly ahead, being far better equipped and funded. This has meant for a turbulent relationship, one which Jefferys-Jones is well able to chart. There are few surprises therefore, and for example, for all Tony Blair's desire to be at the top table in order to influence the invasion of Iraq, it was clear that the UK had little real traction in Washington over how things happened.

As if to further marginalise MI5 & MI6, this book then examines the rise of alternative intelligence operations in the EU and Interpol has having greater potential for effectiveness (even if that is largely unproved). All in all, this simply reflects the reality of the UK's status on the global stage, for better or worse. The story is not over, of course, since (as recent revelations have made clear), the UK punches above its weight with facilities like GCHQ in Cheltenham and the reach of MI6. But the book is merely placing these into the wider perspective of western intelligence, since the UK is by no means the only partner that the US turns to.

This is not as readable a narrative as, say, the wonderful Ben Macintyre might produce (eg Double Cross: The True Story of The D-Day Spies), even though it rather half-heartedly attempts pen portraits of individual players as the book continues in a similar way. In fact at times it can feel like an overwhelming litany of individuals (about whom one is likely to have heard little, unless steeped in the history of espionage). Nor is this about the intricacies of operations (such as would interest lovers of spy fiction). Instead it is more a geopolitical and diplomatic history, which at times feels quite dry. But it is able and informed scholarship, and therefore a very important contribution to the history.

If a more general history of espionage is what you're after, then I'd definitely go for Gordon Corera's MI6: Life and Death in the British Secret Service or perhaps for something more general, John Lewis Gaddis's The Cold War.


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