Top positive review
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Fascinating biography which I enjoyed far more than I expected to
on 7 December 2016
I bought this book for my husband originally. He thought it was OK but was did not think I would be very keen, hence why it has taken so long for me to pick it up. I'm not a fan of war stories but I do like a good biography.
The book is nearly 550 pages but the last 100 is filled with references and indices. It is split into 2 parts, which roughly cover each of the World Wars, divided up into about 20 chapters overall - sandwiched between an author's note, an introduction and epilogue.
It became clear fairly quickly that there is almost no detail that has been imagined and that the author has done a huge amount of research to get everything clear.
Many illusions are contained in the book, set within the text, meaning that they appear at appropriate times. They add to the story and make it seem much more real. It does waver towards fiction at times but this is just because real life is often more incredible than fiction and the touches of reality serve an important function.
Reading a biography of someone you've never heard of is quite unusual and it's impressive how quickly the author gets the reader to care about Geoffrey Pyke. There are also many interesting parallels to modern day running throughout the life - the British public's attitude to the future king marrying a divorcee was mainly gained from the media (as opinions are often measured today), there is also a rise of fascism which is generally ignored by the people. These comparisons have to be in the readers mind but are never focused by the text. The work that Geoffrey Pyke did in Germany just before World War 2 was amazing and gave a clear indication that the silent majority were being led by the noisy few and sleepwalking into disaster - a pattern that is repeated time and time again.
As the book is written in recent times, the language can be very up to date which makes the process of reading more accessible than if it had been written soon after it's subject died.
The narrative is packed with detail and there are a huge number of people referenced. It does take a degree of concentration to read but keep with it as it's worth it. Even the military strategy I did not struggle with and spent many hours reading the book slowly so that I could understand it fully. It is easy to get lost with the people and the organisations that appear, maybe the author could have explained some of the acronyms more frequently but, as it is all factual, I found that the internet was very helpful.....
"Every idea he had was science fiction" - this sums up Pyke and is the key to understanding him. When you think about it, every invention is fiction until it becomes reality