Brendan’s Alternate Tagline: It’s Hogan’s Heroes, only it’s set in WWI and it’s real.
Quick synopsis: Story of various POWs in WWI German prisons and their attempts to break out.
Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like: One of the escapees immediately sent a telegram after making it to neutral territory. It was addressed to the prison commandant. He threatened to break his neck if he ever saw him again.
Fun Fact for History Nerds: The class system in a POW camp is pretty ridiculous to contemporary reading. The thought that officers would have fellow prisoners waiting on them like servants is hilarious. However, not nearly as hilarious as the hijinks perpetrated by the prisoners against their captors.
My Take: If this were historical fiction, Bascomb would be lambasted for not taking his subject matter seriously. The farcical events within the book defy belief even though some had some serious consequences including death.
But all of it is true. Bascomb pulled from various primary sources to pull together a story which covers literally dozens of escapees and escapes at various POW camps. This book could have easily gone off the rails with the number of subjects and locations even without accounting for the multiple escapes by almost all the protagonists. However, Bascomb never ventures too far from the through line of the massive break out at the end. The previous attempts, which seemed like tangents early in the book, end up ratcheting up the narrative. We know how easily someone can get out but making it to the border is far from a certainty.
It’s a cliché, but a cliché for a reason. I didn’t want to put this one down.
Verdict: Great book for anyone. Fast paced, entertaining and utterly hilarious even while recognizing the danger the protagonists are in.
If You Liked This Try:
- Neal Bascomb, The Winter Fortress
- Neal Bascomb, Hunting Eichmann
- Laura MacDonald, Curse of the Narrows
- Michael Zuckoff, Lost In Shangri-La