#6Degrees of Separation: From A Gentleman in Moscow to Winter in Madrid

It’s the first Saturday of the month so it’s time for 6 Degrees of Separation!

Here’s how it works: a book is chosen as a starting point by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book.

Kate says: Books can be linked in obvious ways – for example, books by the same authors, from the same era or genre, or books with similar themes or settings. Or, you may choose to link them in more personal or esoteric ways: books you read on the same holiday, books given to you by a particular friend, books that remind you of a particular time in your life, or books you read for an online challenge. Join in by posting your own six degrees chain on your blog and adding the link in the comments section of each month’s post.   You can also check out links to posts on Twitter using the hashtag #6Degrees

This month’s starting book is A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles and for my chain I’ve decided to make a literary journey across the capitals of Europe. Apart from anything else, it seems appropriate given what is currently going on in UK politics. Links from the book title will take you to my review or the book description on Goodreads.

I haven’t yet read A Gentleman in Moscow although it’s been in my TBR pile for some time. However, I know it’s set in 1922 and concerns Count Alexander Rostov who is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal and sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin.

For my first link in the chain, we continue the theme of imprisonment with The Good Doctor of Warsaw by Elisabeth Gifford. It’s a powerful, compelling account of the fate of those who struggled for survival in the Warsaw ghetto during the Second World War.

It’s the Cold War which is the backdrop to Prague Spring by Simon Mawer, set in the former Czechoslovakia during a turbulent period of its history. Although I haven’t read it, it’s been on my wishlist ever since I read another of the author’s novels, Tightrope.

Hopping across the border to Austria takes me to Vienna Spies by Alex Gerlis. Described as ‘a taut, tense masterclass in espionage fiction’ it’s another book I haven’t read but which I added to my wishlist having enjoyed the author’s previous book, The Swiss Spy. Vienna Spies takes place in the fiercely pro-Nazi city of the title in the final months of the Second World War.

On to Germany and The Man from Berlin by Luke McCallin, the first in his terrific historical crime series featuring German military intelligence officer, Captain Gregor Reinhardt.

Staying with World War Two, we’re taking a Night Flight to Paris courtesy of author David Gilman. Set in Nazi occupied Paris in 1943, the book immerses the reader in a world where danger, suspicion and fear is a constant companion.  I loved its mixture of atmospheric period detail, dramatic action scenes and compelling story line.

Finally, let’s cross the Pyrenees into Spain for Winter in Madrid by C J Sansom. Set in 1940 in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, it tells the story of Harry, a privileged young man traumatized by his experiences at Dunkirk, who is despatched to the ruined city of Madrid as a reluctant spy for the British Secret Service.

This month we’ve travelled across war-torn Europe from Moscow to Madrid. Where did your chain take you?

AGentlemaninMoscowThe Good Doctor of WarsawTheManFromBerlinNIGHT FLIGHT TO PARISViennaSpies


#BlogTour #BookReview Ike and Kay by James MacManus @Duckbooks

Ike and Kay Banner Medium-01

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.

Ike and KayAbout 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

Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com | Hive
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find Ike and Kay on Goodreads

My Review

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’.

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In three words: Fascinating, intimate, absorbing

Try something similar:  The General’s Women by Susan Wittig Albert

MacManusAbout 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.

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