Wednesday, March 18, 2009

From the Shelves of the Paco Library

Unfortunately, I didn't have time to compose my typical, longish, semi-thoughtful book review this week, so I'm just going to list a few interesting titles on the theme of captivity and escape.

The White Rabbit: The Secret Agent the Gestapo Could Not Crack, by Bruce Marshall, is the thrilling story of Wing Commander F.F.E. Yeo-Thomas. Yeo-Thomas, a director of Molyneux (a Parisian dressmaker, of all things), volunteered for military service in Britain in 1939. For a year and a half he coordinated activities among the different groups comprising the French Resistance, before being captured. He was tortured and ultimately sentenced to death, but succeeded in escaping from the death convoy. Nail-bitingly good non-fiction.

Churchill: Wanted Dead or Alive, by Celia Sandys, is the fascinating story of Sir Winston's adventures as a journalist and soldier in South Africa during the Boer War (including, naturally, an account of his capture by the Boers and his escape). Sandys, a granddaughter of Sir Winston, tells the story - sometimes harrowing, sometimes comical - in clear, straightforward prose. An extremely good read.

The Long Walk, by Slavomir Rawicz, is an account of one of the greatest escapes of all time. Rawicz, a Polish cavalry officer, was captured by the Russians in 1939, and sent to a gulag near Yakutsk (a city in the Russian Far East 450 kilometers south of the Arctic Circle). He escaped with a handful of his comrades a year later (acquiring and losing a few traveling companions along the way), and walked all the way to India. It is a tale of tremendous suffering, patience and courage. A remarkable story that I highly recommend.


Isophorone said...

Thanks for the book recommendations. Yakutsk is ranked as the coldest city in the world (not counting small settlements or scientific experiment stations). My son has taken a liking to looking up extreme weather forecasts, and Yakutsk often comes up in his search. Anyone sent to a Soviet-era prison camp around there was probably not expected to survive.

Boy on a bike said...

I have Churchill's book of his time in South Africa around somewhere - his story in his own words.

I think. Long time since I read it.

Paco said...

Isophorone: I think you're right. A sentence to serve time in a labor camp in the far north was probably considered a form of slow execution.

JeffS said...

I read "The Long Walk" in high school -- a good read!