I’m delighted to be hosting the first stop on the blog tour for Ike and Kay by James MacManus alongside my tour buddy, Stephanie at Steph’s Book Blog. Thanks to Chaam at Duckworth Books for inviting me to take part in the tour and for my review copy.
I hope you enjoy reading my review of Ike and Kay. Do look out for more reviews by the fabulous book bloggers also hosting stops on the tour.
About the Book
It is 1942 and war-battered London plays host to the imposing figure of General Ike Eisenhower on a vital mission for the US army. Kay Summersby, an ambulance driver who survived the horrors of the Blitz, is chosen to be his aide, a role that will change her life forever.
Charmed by Ike’s affable and disarming nature so different from the stiffness of British military convention she accompanies him during the North African campaign against Rommel and the war in Europe against Nazi Germany. Amid the carnage a secret affair unfolds between the General and Kay but rumours of Ike’s infidelity reach across the ocean to Washington – and worse yet, to his wife. In a time where scandal and war threaten to break them apart, can Ike and Kay hold on to their love?
Format: Paperback, e-book (352 pp.) Publisher: Duckworth
Published: 8th March 2018 Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Find Ike and Kay on Goodreads
Ike and Kay is a fictionalized account of the real life relationship between General Dwight Eisenhower and Kay Summersby.
Thanks to the author’s insightful portrayal, I could well understand how Kay, assigned to be his driver, might be attracted to the intelligent and charming Eisenhower (whom she refers to from early on as ‘her’ general). The reader witnesses the gradual development of their relationship from mutual regard to easy familiarity (smiles exchanged in the rear-view mirror) to something more, helped along by a box of chocolates, an unexpected invitation to dinner and a puppy. Soon Kay is part of Eisenhower’s wartime ‘family’, a small group of his closest aides, and rubbing shoulders with figures such as Roosevelt and Churchill.
The way their relationship was portrayed felt utterly realistic: the highs and lows, doubts and fears, promises made and broken, hopes raised and then dashed. I found myself rooting for Kay – more in hope than expectation – at the same time wishing she had taken more heed of her friend Charlotte’s wise if down to earth advice.
As depicted by the author, Eisenhower’s superiors initially tolerate the obvious growing closeness between the pair because of his vital role in directing the Allied offensive. ‘Keep the general happy’ becomes the watchword. Yet once the war is over the relationship becomes an embarrassment – not least of which because Eisenhower is a married man – something to be airbrushed (in one case, quite literally) from history.
The book also contains some fascinating detail about the preparations for the Allied invasion of Europe and some particularly poignant and moving descriptions of D-Day. Kay recalls the eve of D-Day as ‘a series of jumbled images’.
‘The sun setting in a paint box of colours that evening, broad brush strokes of red, orange and purple. Faces of the paratroops blackened with charcoal and cocoa. The ghostly features of Eisenhower moving among these men in darkness, shaking hands, accepting whispered messages to loved ones… Camouflaged troops, silky shadows in the darkness, their voices those of the night… Wingtips flashing white lights as the aircraft took off and climbed to join the armada above. The sparkle of distant stars in a crowded sky.’
Ike and Kay is both an intimate, affecting story of a wartime romance but also a fascinating insight into the burden borne by those in positions of power during wartime. Why not make it one of your ‘Summer Reads’.
In three words: Fascinating, intimate, absorbing
Try something similar: The General’s Women by Susan Wittig Albert
About the Author
James MacManus is the managing director of The Times Literary Supplement. After studying at St Andrews University he began his career in journalism at the Daily Express in Manchester. Joining The Guardian in 1972, he later became Paris, and then Africa and Middle East Correspondent. He is the author of several novels including On the Broken Shore, Black Venus, Sleep in Peace Tonight and Midnight in Berlin. James MacManus has three children and lives in Dulwich, London.