Gateway Gazette

From My Bookshelf: Featuring Andrew Morton and Sebastian Faulks

By Lynn Willoughby

17 Carnations ~ Andrew Morton
The Royals, the Nazis and the Biggest Cover Up in History
This book of non-fiction gives us one version of Edward VIII, later the Duke of Windsor, his wife, Wallis Simpson and the bizarre and truly scary plot to reinstate him as a puppet king once the Nazis had defeated England in WWII.
We have long heard  and read about the rumours that the Windsors were Nazi sympathizers.  This book goes much further and includes the alleged affair between Simpson and von Ribbentrop, the German foreign minister.  The title refers to the floral arrangement von Ribbentrop had sent to Wallis each day.  It was to signify the number of times they made love.
Morton includes the discovery of top secret correspondence between Hitler and Edward VIII.  “Drawing on FBI documents, exclusive pictures and material from the German, Russian and British Royal archives, as well as the personal correspondence of Churchill, Eisenhower and the Windsors…”  there is intrigue enough for all.
Though there is evidence that the Windsors actually committed treason it is not conclusive.  They were, however, certainly pro Nazi.
What is very well documented is that the Duke of Windsor was a self-indulgent man, with many insecurities, who quite possible suffered from anorexia.  He loathed his job of “princing”.  He contemplated suicide on many occasions.
The other revealing correspondence and ties between Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, the Duke of Windsor and Adolf Hitler before, during and after WWII was a revelation to me.  There was a lot going on behind closed doors in the name of diplomacy.  You could not write a book of fiction with more revelations, twists, sexual affairs, parties, lavish spending, secret letters and documents than this book.
  • Madonna
  • Diana: Her True Story in her Own Words
………………and others
Where My Heart Used to Beat ~ Sebastian Faulks
Faulks books of historical fiction have never disappointed me.  It you have a passion for war stories you will love this one.  Faulks is a terrific writer and there is always a lot going on – which I appreciate.  In this novel we meet Robert Hendricks when he is in his 60s.
Hendricks is a psychiatric doctor who believes that neuroscience and evolution are what separate human beings from the rest of creation.  “Homo Sapiens is a freak”, he says at one point.  We suffer “…the curse of self-awareness.” Working with the mentally ill, seeing the “cures” tried – some with success, but most with failure, he leads a very lonely life.
So we have a story of today with flashes back to the British Expeditionary Forces landing on the continent and the subsequent evacuation from Dunkirk.  Hendricks was on active duty for a spell in North Africa and most terribly at Anzio in Italy.
“Faulks writing leaps into colour as he describes the scenes of battle and the wretchedness of the soldiers.  Mired in a fetid soup of excrement and deliquescent corpses, they had become semi-aquatic animals.”  K.A. Powers
There are people and places in this novel where Hendricks is in the present, and they are not without interest and empathy, but it is always the war scenes that leap off the page.  “Throughout my life,” Hendricks says at one point, “I had thought that if I could get through this section of it, then the pattern of destiny would reveal itself.”  Who hasn’t felt like that at some point in life?
I liked this book a lot, especially the ending which reveals yet another glimpse of the madness of war.
  • Birdsong
  • Charlotte Gray and others
Who Knew?
Blood transfusions from malarial patients were commonly given to mental patients with GPI (General Paralysis of the Insane) at the beginning of the twentieth century.  It was often successful and showed the relationship between syphilis, insanity and psychiatry. The thinking was that the very high fevers burned out the syphilis bacterium.

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