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The Ariadne Objective: The Underground War to Rescue Crete from the Nazis

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The Ariadne Objective: The Underground War to Rescue Crete from the Nazis Cover

ISBN13: 9780307460134
ISBN10: 0307460134
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Review:

"British officers, Cretan guerrilla fighters, a Polish baronesses, and both good and bad Germans are among the diverse cast of characters that fill this exciting historical account of when WWII came to the island of Crete. The narrative focuses on an eccentric group of British amateur Special Forces officers lead by Major Patrick Leigh Fermor, who perpetrate the Cretan guerrilla bands against the Germans in a full throttle, fierce attempt to block Nazi domination in the Middle East. Over several years Fermor and his companions gather intelligence, raid and harass the German occupation from caves and huts deep in the foreboding Cretan mountains. Constantly on the move to avoid searching German forces, the guerrillas gain steady strength until ultimately they take on their most daring mission in the summer of 1944 when they attempt to kidnap the German general commanding the island. Already thrilling in premise, Davis's execution of this previously untold war story is spot on especially when he colors in history with intricate descriptions of the exotic locale. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

About the Author

WES DAVIS served for two years as an assistant to the director of excavations at Kavousi in Eastern Crete, not far from the plateau where Patrick Leigh Fermor parachuted onto the island during WWII. He holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from Princeton University and is a former assistant professor of English at Yale University.  Editor of the Harvard University Press Anthology of Modern Irish Poetry, he has written for publications that include the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and The Nation.

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cblaker, November 18, 2014 (view all comments by cblaker)
This book reads like an enjoyable adventure novel. I say adventure rather than war, because although there is death in the book, mostly it is vague and does not occur to central figures in the book. The grimness of a book about say the Russian Front is absent here. Crete was a peaceful backwater compared to most theaters of the war. As an example, it will astound some readers how often the British agents are able to get drunk with their Cretan cohorts.
The entire book centers on Patrick Leigh Fermor. Happily, for the author and the reader, Fermor left an extensive written record of his life including the Crete campaign. The author is also able to draw on five or six other primary source books about this part of the war. As a result the book is full of descriptive details and anecdotes. I think in part because there was so much detail to use from the primary sources, the author does little to place Crete in the larger story of World War II. The reader can infer Crete's relative value because its position in the Mediterranean, but the Davis doesn't really get into the strategies of the British or Allied High Command in relation to Crete.
Patrick or “Paddy” was a bit of wild child and grew up with almost no parental supervision. It never ceases to amaze me how among a certain class it was socially acceptable to virtually abandon your child. Despite frequent expulsions, Paddy does well in school and studies the classics. He grows into a independent, rakish sort-of guy that you frequently read about in stories like these.
After college, Paddy decides to walk across Europe, from Rotterdam to Constantinople. When he's not enjoying the kindness of strangers, he sleeps in haylofts. The descriptions of his travels were based on the two volumes Fermor wrote. The travelogue part of the book was one of my favorites and I was almost disappointed the author had to move onto the war.
The core of the book begins with the Axis invasion and occupation of Crete. Despite a fierce resistance, Crete quickly falls to overwhelming numbers and firepower. The British command in Cairo decides to send in special forces agents to help organize the Cretans and harass the Germans. Fermor as well as other Brits are infiltrated onto the island by boat. The other agents on Crete are also a bit odd and unconventional. It's impressive how the British were able to make use of their eccentric volunteers. I can't imagine the US military ever tolerating some of the characters that have become famous fighting for Her Majesty i.e. T.E. Lawrence.
The British are not able to strike very hard against the Axis because the Nazis are more than willing to retaliate by executing civilians and burning villages. The one big plan the British agents shoot for is the kidnapping of a German general. I'm not going to say any further, because if you're like me and don't know very much about this aspect of WWII, you'll be kept in suspense until the end of the book.
My criticism is pretty minor. I got tired of the fabulously, eccentric parties that the British go to in Cairo. Another criticism is a general one of popular histories. Were there no plain or homely women in history, ever? Every female character in this book or books like this is either attractive, alluring, willowy or a combination thereof. I'm not sure where this impulse comes from. I challenge you to find an unattractive woman who features prominently in the next popular history you read.
Despite minor quibbles, this book is fun to read and I'd recommend it those interested in WWII or people who like adventure/travelogues.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780307460134
Author:
Davis, Wes
Publisher:
Crown Publishing Group (NY)
Subject:
Military - World War II
Subject:
Military-World War II General
Publication Date:
20131131
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Illustrations:
1 8-PAGE BandW PHOTO INSERT
Pages:
352
Dimensions:
9.5 x 6.6 x 1.1 in 1.3 lb

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Military » Special Forces
History and Social Science » Military » World War II » Europe » General
History and Social Science » Military » World War II » General
History and Social Science » World History » Greece

The Ariadne Objective: The Underground War to Rescue Crete from the Nazis Used Hardcover
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Product details 352 pages Crown Publishing Group (NY) - English 9780307460134 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "British officers, Cretan guerrilla fighters, a Polish baronesses, and both good and bad Germans are among the diverse cast of characters that fill this exciting historical account of when WWII came to the island of Crete. The narrative focuses on an eccentric group of British amateur Special Forces officers lead by Major Patrick Leigh Fermor, who perpetrate the Cretan guerrilla bands against the Germans in a full throttle, fierce attempt to block Nazi domination in the Middle East. Over several years Fermor and his companions gather intelligence, raid and harass the German occupation from caves and huts deep in the foreboding Cretan mountains. Constantly on the move to avoid searching German forces, the guerrillas gain steady strength until ultimately they take on their most daring mission in the summer of 1944 when they attempt to kidnap the German general commanding the island. Already thrilling in premise, Davis's execution of this previously untold war story is spot on especially when he colors in history with intricate descriptions of the exotic locale. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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