3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Hilarious, harrowing and all shades in between,
This review is from: Between Silk and Cyanide (Paperback)
Marks was with SOE during WW2. This book is a memoir of his experiences. Don't be put off by its size. Like some other reviewers, once I started it, I couldn't put it down.
In SOE Marks had the job of briefing agents about the codes they would use in the field. At the start of the war SOE's codes had several weaknesses and Marks chronicles their gradual improvement, often against opposition from various closed-minded people in the military hierarchy.
Particularly moving is his description of the code given to Violette Szabo based on the famous "Life that I have" poem. He also describes SOE's tragic failure to accept that its Dutch network was completely compromised by the Germans and that most of the SOE agents sent to Holland were captured on arrival.
Marks's descriptions of colleagues and the SOE military bureacracy is in places hilarious, his descriptions of the fate of agents in places harrowing. His writing weaves the lightest and the darkest into a compelling story. Many have written about the codebreakers of Bletchley Park and their part in the life-or-death Battle of the Atlantic. As a code-maker, Marks offers a different and more personal perspective on the life-or-death decisions that affected individual agents.
Readers not into codes, codemaking and codebreaking might find the technical details a bit turgid - but they can be skipped without detracting from a narrative that is eye-witness history at its very best.