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Train to Nowhere: One Woman's World War II, Ambulance Driver, Reporter, Liberator Hardcover – 24 Aug 2017
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Train to Nowhere is the most gripping piece of war reportage I have ever read: particularly affecting is Anita Leslie's account of the Battle of Colmar, where her descriptions are almost too unbearable to take in. What a writer! Her observations, mixed with dry humour and compassion, place her at the heart of the conflict and somehow apart from it, as a good historian should be. Remarkable. (Joanna Lumley 2017-07-01)
A vivid memoir, beautifully crafted, by a remarkable woman at a unique period in modern history. Her skills of observation are penetrating and make this book a marvellously accessible account of WWII. Unputdownable (Mary S. Lovell Author of The Mitford Girls 2017-06-23)
Anita Leslie was a lionhearted heroine of the first order, whose extraordinary bravery and sangfroid knew no bounds...An astonishing life and a fascinating book (Anjelica Huston 2017-05-23)
A triumph of a memoir. Anita Leslie bears testament to the many courageous women who lived and fought in World War II (Amanda Foreman author of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire 2017-11-02)
For every distressing episode there is the leavening effect of Anita Leslie's indomitable spirit, her canny observations and wry sense of humour in the face of unimaginable adversity, all of which turned the book into something quite unexpected and extraordinary (Dovegreyreader 2017-11-12)
A vivid reminder that a woman can experience and write about a war, and seventy years on, her words stand the test of time: precise and compelling (Kate Adie BBC Broadcaster 2017-05-17)
It's glorious! Had me utterly gripped, I couldn't put it down. I wish I'd been able to meet her and ask her a thousand questions about the war (Caroline Wyatt BBC War Correspondent 2017-08-24)
The emotional truths of front-line war revealed - a charming writer, bold, female and brave (Fay Weldon Author of Death of a She Devil 2017-05-19)
Train to Nowhere speaks of another mood, a different time and a grittier generation...This, surely, is the second world war we want to rediscover in print (Robert McCrum Observer)
If Evelyn Waugh's Mrs Algernon Stitch had been possessed of a heart, a sense of humour, and a glorious prose style, it could be said that she was a dead ringer for Anita Leslie. Train to Nowhere is a glorious book, brought back to vivid life. (John Banville Booker Prize winning author of The Sea 2017-07-07)
'Train To Nowhere is the most gripping piece of war reportage I have ever read: particularly affecting is Anita Leslie's account of the Battle of Colmar, where her descriptions are almost too unbearable to take in. What a writer! Her observations, mixed with dry humour and compassion, place her at the heart of the conflict and somehow apart from it, as a good historian should be. Remarkable.' Joanna LumleySee all Product description
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The book begins in August 1940, when Anita came across a newspaper advertisement for women drivers to go to Africa. She immediately volunteered; taking part in desultory training, which included putting up tents while bombers roared overhead and attending a lecture on ‘Virtue in Tropical Lands,’ before being blessed by the Bishop of St Alban’s and finally, after some more training (which took place in London, during the blitz) boarding a ship for South Africa. Warned not to get unbecomingly sunburnt, Anita Leslie is a young woman full of life. She takes her work seriously, but – all the way through this book – there is room for music, parties and dancing, throughout the war.
We follow her through Middle East with the Mechanised Transport Corps. She found that women were not welcomed in war zones, but the women’s ambulances were needed and the men happy to receive their aid. She works in Cairo, Damascus and Beirut, before heading for Europe. As she reaches Italy, the war feels much closer. Through France and Germany, Anita Leslie seems involved in so many major events. She is there during the Liberation of Paris, she sits in Hitler’s abandoned office and writes movingly of visiting an extermination camp. At no point is the horror of war forgotten and the author of this memoir certainly saw terrible things, but she writes with both humour and humanity.
This was a great success when it was first published and sadly went out of print. I feel really honoured to have read this memoir. It is touching, deeply moving and yet also uplifting. If you would like to read a memoir of the war from a different perspective – that of a woman who was alongside the troops, rather than on the Home Front (although I do enjoy such memoirs too), then this really does offer a unique point of view and an author with a wonderful ‘voice.’ I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review and recommend it highly.
The narrator was born in 1914 and the area she describes is a regular news item today so it should be a really interesting read. But I didn't find it so.
She writes as a 1920s flapper rather than the generastion after that and despite whatever bravery is undoubtedly involved it tends to focus on wealthy friends whom she dined with.
To be fair, as someone from Chiurchill's family, who would otherwise have been cubbing - that is, killing young animals too young to be chased by the "legitimate" hunt I am unlikely to find much common ground.
These are tales now from a long ago war which still resonates today, and books such as this allow us to keep the personal connection to the past.
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