Allan Massie

International Rescue

Villa Air-Bel: The Second World War, Escape and a House in France

By

John Murray 542pp £20 order from our bookshop

The subtitle suggests that this book is an odd hybrid: part history, part adventure story. So it is. It is the product of much devoted research and wide reading. The notes and bibliography run to some fifty pages. It seems probable that Rosemary Sullivan makes few statements for which she cannot supply evidence. And yet there is something unconvincing about Villa Air-Bel, and not only because the narrative veers about in a disconcerting fashion. It is partly that the style is breathless, inflated and self-consciously dramatic, partly that the author too often fails to put her story in context, and even seems not to understand that there is a context. A pity, because the story itself is interesting, important, and in her telling sometimes gripping.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Her favourite design included a body in the shape of a horse, with a steam engine inside ... The passenger would t… ,
    • Sign up to our email newsletter below! Get free articles, highlights from the archive, and chances to win theatre… ,
    • RT : Founded in 1979, is a trusted independent source for reviews of new books across a variety of genres. A… ,
    • RT : Here we are - "Shelf Indulgence" by Ed Potten, a wonderful read, well worth your time: @Lit_Review,
    • 'Like going to a party hoping to get away as quickly as politeness allowed and at 4am finding myself still engrosse… ,
    • 'Neville never shed his sense of being the junior, and perhaps least-deserving Chamberlain.' From the archive, Mic… ,
    • 'The erecting and immediate destruction of a series of straw men rather detracts from what is for the most part an… ,