Friday, August 08, 2014

Book Review: "The Riddle of the Sands" by Erskine Childers

More holiday reading when I picked up a copy of the "Riddle of the Sands" that had been in the house for some time. It was first published in 1903 during a period before World War I when there was what Nigel Jones in his book "Peace and War: Britain in 1914" called "invasion literature", a lot of books published on the topic of potential invasion of Britain by Germany.

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This book from the early 1900s is one of the few spy novels still read today. It is a "stuffy" read and it also helps if you know a bit about yachting to understand all the boat stuff in the book. It is slow moving at times - even boring. It takes a long time for the action to start. Carruthers and Davies are two English yachtsmen who, based on the thinnest of evidence, think that the Germans are planning surprise invasion of Britain from the sands that make up the north west coast of Germany. Before you know it, the book is finished and nothing really happens (except a lot of sailing).

Books like this were designed to warn the British people of the danger posed by Germany. Childers worked in the House of Commons as a clerk and was keen to play his part in getting the Government to spend more on the defence of Britain.

Coincidentally, I started to read this book on the 26th July - exactly 100 years after Childers landed in Howth with a cargo of arms on board the Asgard. He was on the wrong side of the Irish Civil War and a vengeful government had him executed on 24th November 1922 for possession of a pistol. A tragic person.

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