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4.1 out of 5 stars
17
4.1 out of 5 stars
Reckless
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 30 January 2014
Opening in 1943 with a war-time meeting between a trio of young officers – one American, one British, and one Russian – this goes on to track life in the post-war world of the 1950s, the Cold War, and culminates in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

The debates about nuclear war – deterrence or weapon of attack – haven’t gone away but are made very potent here in the wake of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And the edgy proximity to nuclear war in 1962 is conveyed with a chilling exactitude.

Less successful, for me, is the soap-opera private lives that pad out the political story: Irish Mary with her religious visions, Pamela and her love life, felt like distracting add-ons, almost as if they had strayed in from another book – something written by Elizabeth Jane Howard, or Joanna Trollope.

So the two halves of this book didn’t quite gel for me – but the political tale made this well worth reading.

(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher)
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 16 February 2014
Opening in 1943, William Nicholson's 'Reckless' introduces us to Rupert Blundell, a sensitive and reticent young Englishman, working for the war office as aide to Lord Mountbatten, who is invited to tea at Cliveden, where he meets the seventeen-year-old Princess Elizabeth. Also at the tea party, are two other young men: an American, Captain McGeorge Bundy, and a Russian, Oleg Troyanovsky, both of whom Rupert relates to well. At the end of the party, inspired by a comment made by the young princess, the three young men make a pact that when the war finishes, they will do their utmost to ensure that there will be "no more wars". Shortly afterwards the atomic bomb is dropped on Japan, but just before that catastrophic event, a young Irish girl, Mary Brennan, has a vision of Jesus, who tells her that a great wind will sweep over the land. In England, a little girl, Pamela Avenell, the stepdaughter of Rupert's brother-in-law, Larry Cornford, looks forward to growing up and leaving the sadness of her father's death behind her, telling Rupert she'd rather be happy than sad. Rupert knows life is not as easy as that.

Moving on to the early 1960s, with the Cuban missile crisis looming, Rupert is now Strategic Adviser to the Chief of Defence Staff and, as such, enjoys a close relationship with Mountbatten; however Rupert is still unmarried and still lacks confidence with women, but continues to dream of finding someone who will love him. And then he meets an unusual young woman in a park who has a profound effect on him; this woman is Mary Brennan. Meanwhile Pamela Avenell, now eighteen, has arrived in London full of enthusiasm to begin a new and exciting life, and Pamela's wish is granted when she meets Stephen Ward and is drawn into his life and into the lives of Christine Keeler, Mandy Rice-Davies and Yevgeny Ivanov, but obviously I shall leave the details for prospective readers to learn for themselves, and there is plenty more in this novel for those readers to discover.

Filled with some very good dialogue (the author is also a well-regarded scriptwriter) William Nicholson's seventh novel, set against the growing threat of nuclear war, weaves together worldwide issues with those of a more domestic and personal nature and, in doing so, has created a cast of interesting characters, placed in intriguing situations. Although some of the characters elicited more of my sympathy than others, and I feel Nicholson is understandably more comfortable with his fictional than the real-life cast, I became involved in their dilemmas, was interested in what happened to them and found myself trying to predict how their personal stories would work out, and also how the different threads would come together at the close of the story, making this an involving and absorbing read.

4 Stars.

Please note this novel includes characters from William Nicholson's previous book: Motherland, but it is not necessary to have read that to enjoy this novel. I can also recommend the author's:The Trial Of True Love;The Secret Intensity of Everyday Life;All the Hopeful Lovers and The Golden Hour.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 30 January 2014
This ambitious novel manages to pull off something quite difficult – to encompass both global and also personal themes - and make both strands work. The story is built around the Cuban missile crisis and there are appearances by real, historical characters; such as Kennedy, Mountbatten, Macmillan, Khrushchev and Stephen Ward, as well as Russian spy ‘Eugene’ Ivanov, both of whom were involved in the later Profumo Affair.

The story begins with the unleashing of atomic weapons on Japan, in the last stages of WWII. Three young men meet around that time – Rupert Blundell, who works for Mountbatten, Mac Bundy, an American who later works with Kennedy and Oleg Troyanovsky, a Russian. The devastation of nuclear power is something both sides wish to use as a deterrent and a threat; but the real and present fear of war is evident. Nuclear bombs, once unleashed, are a real threat to the people in this book and you do feel the freeze and fear of the Cold War. People literally did think the world could end and, you also sense, that the politicians are not totally in control of the situation...

Much of the novel is seen from the point of view of Rupert Blundell; who, although successful in his career is a lonely man. One day he comes across a young woman in a park, who is obviously worried and unhappy and he helps her find a place in the home of his friend Hugo and his wife Harriet. Also staying with them is young Pamela Avenell, the step-daughter of Hugo’s business partner. In their own ways, both are quite mysterious. Mary has a past which she is keen to keep secret. Pamela is desperate to discover her power over men, lives life for the moment and becomes involved with Stephen Ward, who introduces her to the likes of Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies. I suspect we were supposed to sympathise with Pamela, but I have to admit I found her a deeply unlikeable young woman.

The author manages to build events – both political and personal – with great talent. You do sympathise with most of the characters and he really does capture that feeling of escalating fear, as people imagine that war could break out any moment. Although it is based around such serious world issues, the main emphasis is always on how things affect the characters and you do care what happens to them. At the end of the book, the author mentions that his previous novels all feature characters which are related to some of those in this book; whether past or future, throughout the generations. However, this is a stand-alone novel and you certainly do not need to have any previous knowledge about characters in order to read this. Overall, I found this an intelligent, well written novel, with a great plot and characters and an interesting storyline. I look forward to reading more from this talented author in the future, as well as exploring his past novels.

This book was provided by the publisher for review.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 30 January 2014
This is a really gripping read that I found very hard to put down. Starting in 1945 and Hiroshima and Nagasaki and fast forwarding to 1962 it is a political drama that is very easy to read. There are characters here who first feature in Motherland which I hadn’t read, but that didn’t really matter –although I may have understood some of the characters a little more if I had. What I think is more important is that I had some, although not a lot, of knowledge of the Cuban missile crisis and particularly the Profumo scandal to draw on, as some of those people are featured here and it helped everything gel in my mind a bit, and helped me understand the motives of some of the characters more.

The main part of the story is that of Rupert Blundell, adviser to Mountbatten and a man who leads a very solitary private life. He is charged by Mountbatten to try and think of ways in which a nuclear war, if it ever looked likely, could be averted without loss of face to any of the world leaders involved. This exercise very soon turns into reality as the Cuban missile crisis strikes. The story of the crisis and the political manouverings was told in a very easy to understand, interesting way. The author really brought over the tension and fear that was felt by everyone at the time, that the world would be destroyed in a matter of days.

The other part of the story involves Pamela, a young member of Rupert’s extended family, who comes to London to live, love and have a good time. In contrast to Rupert’s world, hers is one of partying with the likes of Christine Keeler, Stephen Ward and Yevgeny Ivanov amongst others.

The third strand involves Mary, a lonely Irish girl who is befriended by Rupert in London. She is a woman with a secret and her own story to tell although I did feel that this part of the story, to an extent, took something away from the rest of the book – it just didn’t seem to quite “fit”. The same could be said for Pamela’s story, as it seems in total contrast to the rest of the book. It was only when I put two and two together and remembered who some of the characters were in real life that it all connected in my brain.

As the crisis passes the characters face their own internal demons and all come out the other end changed in some ways, and I admit I am dying to know what happened next to Pamela.

Thanks to the publishers for an ARC in return for an honest review.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 5 May 2014
I am not quite sure what William Nicholson's tried to achieve with "Reckless", a novel built around the Cuban missile crises, which features major historical characters as well as an array of fictional ones, all mixing together to create quite an ambitious novel. The plotlines are well structured. Personal ones, I think, better than political ones, despite the research that went into the book - there is even a list of references at the back. I just felt it was rather amateurish to stage the whole Kremlin/Khrushchev and White House/Kennedy's debates, they felt rather staged/fake to me. But in the end I think this made this political drama (spinning from Hiroshima to the Profumo scandal) so easy to read. Although I much preferred reading about fictional characters and their struggles, and I found myself heavily engrossed in the book (finishing it within a day - grateful for the Bank Holiday).

There are three main characters in "Reckless" - Rupert Blundell, personal adviser to Lord Mountbatten and a man whose life is private and lonely. There is a young and reckless beauty Pamela, who revolves in the scandalous circle of Stephen Ward et al, looking for love. And then there is Mary, a prophet, who is running from her own fate. Lives of these three characters are interlinked together, all of them struggling with their own internal demons, which helps to turn pages of the book.

P.S. For those of you who read William Nicholson's "Motherland", you will realize that some of the characters are familiar to you.
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on 23 November 2014
Another wonderful book from a master storyteller.As the book unfolds, I realised I had met some of the characters previously which I found charming.However this would not matter in the slightest if this is your first William Nicholson novel and would definitely spur one on to read more.I have read and absolutely loved all of his books and can't wait for the next.
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on 17 February 2014
This runs together “real” history with fictional characters, part of a saga in progress, as I learnt in the acknowledgements. It did not deliver for me.
The focus is on the Cold War, from a British point of view, building up to the Cuban Missile crisis of October 1962. We also encounter Christine Keeler, William Astor and the others who will make the headlines in 1963. Much of the book is a dramatization of real events – conferences in the Kremlin and in Washington. It is passable only. The tension of those days in October is captured better in the many histories of the period.
It is now fashionable to see Stephen Ward as the real victim in the Profumo affair. Nicholson follows the fashion and, indeed, comes close to portraying the osteopath as some kind of visionary. Fictionalizing Ivanov and Ward, Keeler and Davies, recreating lavish Mayfair parties doesn’t add much to what we already know.
I found the non-historical characters thin at best. Rupert is presented as a thoroughly decent chap, civil servant with some rather good ideas for world peace. Pamela Avenell steps straight out of light romantic fiction, and out of her underwear [black from Marshall and Snelgrove!]. She is neither interesting nor likeable. Only in Mary Brennan did I find some solidity and personality. She also gets the best lines and the best part of the plot.
Nicholson paints a country in decline, but again this is so familiar. He describes a loss of moral ground in a vacuous and shallow social elite. But again - not new. As nuclear war looms large, he tells us what “the end of the world” signifies to his cast. But again predictable and cliched.
There's nothing to get excited about here.
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on 23 June 2014
Even self standing this is a great read perfectly evoking the period and integrating a vast amount of historical research without it feeling shoe horned in. However if one has read William Nicholson's four previous novels in this series there is a huge cumulative delight. Can't wait for number 6!
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on 4 September 2014
Brilliant! A great novel which weaves fact and fiction. I will now hunt out other things he has written. As I finished the book I got a sense of loss as the characters disappeared from sight. The title is very apt: we were taken to the edge of world war by some very reckless individuals.
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on 2 November 2014
This is the second William Nicholson book I have read. Like his style of writing. Enjoy the historical element.nice follow on from Motherland. Recommend this
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