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Agent Michael Trotobas and SOE in Northern France - Stewart Kent and Nick Nicholas

I learned so much from this book, but by heck, it was hard work.

It took me almost 3 weeks to read and digest the 300 pages; I ought to hang my head in shame. I’ve also had to think long and hard about giving a fair review over the last couple of days.

This book could be a thriller about the French and their daring acts of defiant resistance; it isn’t. It could be a biography of Michael Trotobas and his acts of derring do; it isn’t. It could even be an academic recording of the events and activities around Lille during WW2; but again, it isn’t. Very sadly, this book is an uncomfortable mix of all 3 genres and it doesn’t work very well.

There’s obviously a lot of research gone into this work, but the shame is that it’s all been thrown in without thought of the reader. It’s understandable that the authors don’t want to waste any of their painstaking research; after all, it’s been a labour of love over many years; but it’s such a shame that they’ve chosen to present it the way they have.

Please don’t get me wrong, it’s all in there, but you have to fight to extract it. On several occasions I found myself just drifting along, blankly looking at, but not absorbing, the words.

What we do learn is that there were acts of incredible stupidity, acts of great bravery and acts of treachery within the resistance movement; Trotobas was an incredibly brave, but flawed character, with great organisational ability and that in those early days SOE wasn’t remotely all it was cracked up to be.

A disappointing read, but by persevering I did learn quite a lot.

I feel guilty, but can only run this one to 21/2 anchors and hope that any rewrite takes on board a few of my thoughts.