Rick Stroud Bloomsbury Published October 2014 Thank you to the publisher for providing this book in exchange for an honest review. This did not alter my review in any way.
I feel like when I read I am constantly learning something. This is even more true when I read historical non-fiction. I would consider myself pretty learned on World War 2, my dad being pretty much an amateur historian on the subject, but I didn’t know about Crete’s part in the war, how it was used as a German base and how the Cretan people fought back, built a resistance with the help of some dedicated Brits and then kidnapped a Nazi general from practically outside his house.
The courage and dedication of the Cretan people during the war was outstanding to read. Rick Stroud really brought to life all the key players in the saga, even the abducted general Kreipe, and the Cretan people stood out to me in their quest to protect their homeland. They weren’t going to submit quietly to the Germans even as their threats and devastating actions against the locals increased, but kept building the guerrilla resistance with each Cretan helping out in any way they could, no matter what the repercussions could possibly be.
The writing did, in places, get a little bogged down in details and I found it best and easiest to read when I had absolutely no distractions and enough time to really immerse myself in the narrative. Then I found myself really involved with firstly the set up of what’s happening on Crete at the time of the war (REALLY essential to understanding what happens later on), the characters – real people who actually existed, and the complexity of the plan for the kidnapping of General Kreipe. It’s been argued over the years since whether the kidnapping really achieved anything, but it was the moral booster for the Cretan people (over 400 were involved in the entire operation!) and was considered to be worth the trouble. Stroud explores all details surrounding the kidnap and what came after with clarity and honesty, incorporating multiple primary sources into his research, and leaves it up to the reader to decide what part this kidnap plays in World War 2 history. I was fascinated by the whole affair and in awe of what was accomplished in the rugged mountains of Crete by everyday men who became heroes.
I really enjoyed this read but I also found it easy to put down and leave for a day or two before I felt compelled to go back to it. I found myself reading only small amounts at a time even when I wanted to read more. But it is a fascinating part of World War 2 history and definitely worth the read.