Nonfiction November is being hosted by Sarah (Sarah’s Book Shelves), Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness), Sarah (Sarah’s Book Shelves), Julie (JulzReads), and Katie (Doing Dewey). through the site What’s Nonfiction? They have a wonderful programme mapped out for November here. The topic for the second week is “book pairings” – matching a nonfiction book with a fiction one, which is a really great idea. So here goes…
To War With Whitaker
The Wartime Diaries of the Countess of Ranfurly 1939-45
Hermione Ranfurly was a formidable woman. She married into the aristocracy, and when WWII came and her husband Dan, the 6th Earl of Ranfurly went off to join his regiment, Hermione decided that she wouldn’t be left behind to be looked after the family retainer Whitaker. Despite strict rules about wives not being allowed to join their husbands. Hermione was determined not to stand for this. She planned to sneak out somehow to the Middle East, then to get a job and make herself indispensable and be allowed to stay. Which she did, and occasionally she and Dan managed to be in the same part of the Middle East or Africa.
She may name-drop, but she also possessed a first class mind, and her work as a military secretary gave her a real appreciation of the Mediterranean situation during the war.
Read my full review of this book here.
This book will pair wonderfully with:
The Fortunes of War by Olivia Manning
The Balkan Trilogy (1960-65) and The Levant Trilogy (1977-1980)
Based on Manning’s own wartime experiences, this sequence of six novels, published as two trilogies has much in common with Hermione Ranfurly’s. Manning and her husband, a British Council university lecturer in Bucharest, were forced to move out when war started, travelling through Greece to Cairo and later Palestine.
Her novels feature a young couple Guy and Harriet Pringle. Guy is a lecturer in Bucharest, a Communist and gregarious chap within a network of ex-pats. The onset of war forces them to relocate ending up in Cairo. In the second trilogy, Harriet is persuaded to return home, but she changes her mind, going off with friends. When the ship is torpedoed, Guy believes she is dead, but eventually they are reunited.
Guy and Harriet will forever be Ken and Em on telly together for me. Shown on the BBC in autumn 1987: it was while filming this series that they became a couple. The series also featured Ronald Pickup, Robert Stephens, Alan Bennett, Philip Madoc and Rupert Graves, and stayed close to the books.
After seeing the TV adaptation, I remember devouring the books – I still have my TV tie-in copy of The Balkan Trilogy and it is a definite ‘re-read some day’ tome for me.