The fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and the resultant re-unification of Germany, known to so many in Germany simply as "Die Wende" or "turning point", is a fascinating chapter in both German and European history. The lives of those who lived behind the wall for the 28 years of its existence were quite unlike those of their compatriots in the West and it is only in recent years that many former "Ossis" have felt confident in recounting their stories such as those which form the backbone of Anna Funder's superbly constructed account, for which she was awarded the BBC Four Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction in 2004 and for which she was also shortlisted for the "Guardian" newspaper first book award.
The Volkswagen Beetle - icon of 20th Century automotive design, star of Disney movies and one of the best selling cars of all time. Virtually anyone you speak to has at some point in their life had a connection with the Beetle in some way, shape or form. The Beetle was generally accepted to be the brainchild of legendary car designer Ferdinand Porsche to provide Hitler with a car for the German man in the street, however as Dutch author Paul Schilperoord sets out in his biography it would appear that perhaps greater credit for the concept behind the little car should have been given to a Jewish engineer - Josef Ganz.
Whether through the written word, film portrayal, television documentary or personal visits to the Normandy landing beaches, the story of the D-Day landings on June 6th 1944 and the subsequent impact on the course of the Second World War is extremely well known to current generations. Given the code name "Operation Overlord" it is marked as the major turning point which led to the overthrow of the Nazi régime the following year. Running concurrently, an essential support to the overall plan but with little subsequent public recognition was "Operation Fortitude", an extraordinary scheme of double cross espionage, the central theme of this fascinating, exciting and captivating narrative.
Our story begins in 1861, at the start of the American Civil War. Charles Bartlett, the main protagonist, does not cover himself in glory at the Battle of Bull Run – his almost slapstick exit from the battle leads to his posting to London as a military attaché for the Union Army. For military attaché read spy. Under normal circumstances Bartlett could perhaps consider himself a little hard done by – as a military man he is desperate to be back home in the thick of the fighting. But it isn’t long before Bartlett finds himself conducting deadly sabotage against a Confederate ship in a Liverpool dock. His co-saboteur is one Robert Jones, a much more experienced spy who has been building his network of information in Paris. Despite Bartlett’s initial inexperience, the two will become firm friends.