Saturday, May 14, 2011

Book Review: Operation Mincemeat by Ben MacIntyre

I started this book on the recommendation of an ex-boyfriend. I was sort of skeptical that I'd enjoy it, as I'm not generally one for military history. It's just not something I've ever found particularly interesting, and since so many of them glorify wars and violence, I am often left with a bad taste in my mouth after finishing. Fortunately for me, Operation Mincemeat was more about espionage than killing people. In fact, MacIntyre praised the operation extensively because its success ensured that far fewer lives of both allied and Nazi soldiers were lost in the invasion. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Operation Mincemeat depicts the real Operation: Mincemeat, a plan enacted by the British during World War II to trick the Axis powers into believing that the Allies' southern front in Europe wouldn't attack Sicily, the most obvious and convenient jumping-off point for an invasion of that part of Europe. They knew that if they were unable to pull off the trickery, Sicily would be well-fortified and casualties would be very heavy. Taking a plot from an obscure novel, British Intelligence officials decided to procure a body from a local morgue, dress it in military clothes, plant forged documents on it, and then float it at (supposedly) neutral Spain, and use local intelligence officials to ensure that the documents fell into Axis hands. It would have been a macabre comedy of errors had the stakes not been so high.

MacIntyre nicely juggles several concurrent narratives, and presents the history in an informative and accessible way. Overall, I enjoyed it, but I think I'll head back to my more usual literary fare after this. 3 out of 5 stars.

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