The book describes George Millar's experiences as an SOE operative in the Doubs region of Northern France in the last months of occupation, from his training to being parachuted into France, and the end of occupation. The book is written in a style unlike so many other war memoirs, which often see things very much in black and white, good vs evil. George Millar was in a subtle way, I think, far ahead of his time. His Maquis is everything from hilariously funny to terribly sad, and always told from a refreshingly enlightened point of view. I saw him interviewed on television in about 2001. He said something like "When I think about the war I can't help thinking how silly it all was." Mr Millar, for your wonderful book and sincere wisdom, I salute you.
The constant fear of being captured by the Gestapo, the claustrophobia of life cut off from the world in the Maquis, the all-pervading atmosphere of menace, the different political factions of the Resistance, the ambivalance of an occupied population, the hatred for a brutal enemy, the black comedy of war conducted by amateurs, the physical degradation of life in the rough, the inspiring moments of humanity and heroism, the absurd mixture of war and everyday life, the desperation of limited resources - all conveyed superbly in this book.
First read this when I got the book from the School library in the late 50's. Having Read "Next Moon" recently I was reminded of it in the reviews for that book. George Millar wrote this book pretty much after the war so the style of writing is contemporary to the events it describes. It is however an easy and absorbing read and a book you can't put down. If you've bought Next Moon, do read this too. It's a different part of France (Eastern and not far from the Swiss Border) but the courage of the ordinary people in supporting the resistance and the sheer audacity of the sabotage is gripping stuff. Like "Next Moon" the fear and contempt of collaborators and betrayal is ever present and as in many war stories the only thing more audacious than the acts of the resistance is the speed at which those apparently invisible at the time seemed to spring to take credit when the danger was all but passed? Even if you think WWII is a yawn then the "Cat and Mouse" suspense of life in occupied France stands alone as a fascinating story.
A good book written shorty after the end of the second world war so that all his actions where fresh in his memory. Refreshing to read a war biography that is not overly burdened with the politics of war of the front line carnage, all of which have a vast array of books on the subject.
It certainly is the best book I have read, so I purchased one for first son, then one for second. Seeing the price rise and since I have cancer, I bought four books to sell in aid of Macmillan Cancer Relief. I hope people will find the cause worth my slightly bad action. When I have finished it, I shall re-read it with a map, as I know the area.
I laughed, I cried. Perhaps a difference is that being a journalist he was able to write his own story rather than a "man from the ministry" act as ghost and spin the ministry line. Aside from the SOE story it is a facinating period piece about French life, day to day and political.