Escape From Germany by Neil Hanson
Not an easy book to review. In fact, I read it twice before I felt able to write about it. The usual pullquotes for reviews of other books by this author tend to enthuse about his writing but I did not find it easy to evaluate. I really ought to note the things I found so difficult in a very interesting book.
The title does not seem appropriate because, of 413 pages, the first 180 pages deal with different aspects of the camp before getting to the escape itself, the description of which then takes up less than half the book. For me, this was a book about British prisoners of war contending with the difficult conditions in a camp commanded by an antagonistic Captain. I also found it a little confusing in that the chapter titles do not generally reflect their contents.
At times the written descriptions seem somewhat stilted, almost old fashioned in the way they were written and the use of apostrophes sometimes left me bewildered and obliged to read passages more than once to get the gist. This all came about because the author did not indicate excerpts from other sources by the use of footnotes, but relied on the apostrophe although the references were actually in the notes at the end of the book. Or perhaps he heard the apostrophe was going out of fashion and he was not going to be blamed for it. Either way it made reading hard going, though I have suffered far worse; the chronicles of the last voyage of Sir Walter Raleigh for example.
Although there were two sections of illustration plates, some sketches/diagrams within the content would have helped as it was painful having to keep referring to another part of the book, especially when the tunnel itself was explained.
The references are excellent (I have followed up quite a few of them) but I am concerned that the author started the book by making it quite clear that other ranks were no more than serfs and gave them very little recognition. However when reading the book it is obvious the role played by the orderlies was rather important.
I enjoyed the book almost as a work of reference, but not the way it was written and it did not come across as one that was “easy” to read. By this I mean the reading of a book where the flow makes it difficult to put down until a suitable point where the author has provided a break. Because of this I am only going to award 2½ mushroom heads.