2016 Reflections – Books (Biographies)

I’ve never really been into reading biographies. With the exception of pretty much anything about the life of Kierkegaard, I generally stay away from true stories and read either academic non-fiction, or novels.

But this year quite a lot of biographical accounts have ended up on my reading list, and several of them were amazing enough that I decided to do a whole new Reflections post for them.

I’m defining ‘biography’ quite loosely here, to mean anything where the author draws on personal experience (either their own or someone else’s) to discuss the central premise of the book.

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Book Review – I Can’t Begin To Tell You


Denmark, 1940. War has come and everyone must choose a side.

For British-born Kay Eberstern, living on her husband Bror’s country estate, the Nazi invasion and occupation of her adopted country is a time of terrible uncertainty and inner conflict.

With Bror desperate to preserve the legacy of his family home, even if it means coexisting with the enemy, Kay knows she cannot do the same. Lured by British Intelligence into a covert world of resistance and sabotage, her betrayal of Bror is complete and she puts her whole family in danger. Tasked with protecting an enigmatic SOE agent, a man who cannot even tell her his name, Kay learns the art of subterfuge. From this moment on, she must risk everything for the sake of this stranger – a stranger who becomes entangled in her world in ways she never expected. Caught on opposing sides of a war that has ripped apart a continent, will Kay and Bror ever find their way back to one another?

I was excited when the postman knocked on my door proffering a solid-looking envelope, and less excited when I opened it and found a book set in the second world war. I tend not to like war stories, especially not historical ones, and ultra-especially not ones set in either of the world wars.

I nearly put it down within the first few chapters, but I have nothing else on my reading list at the moment and I didn’t fancy a trip to the local charity shop. On I ploughed.

Halfway through the book, I was rescued by the appearance of a new novel which looked a lot more exciting, but by this point something had happened and I found I couldn’t put the book down. Strangely, I was starting to care about the storyline and the characters, despite them really not being my cup of tea in a lot of ways. I wanted the Danish resistance to succeed. I wanted Kay and Tanne to survive. I was even concerned about the welfare of the ladies transcribing the encrypted messages back in London.

If you like war stories in the first place, this is probably a brilliant one. If you don’t, it’s still readable and actually pretty good. My only real criticism would be that Buchan slightly patronises her readers at times; there are points when something is said, or something occurs, which is blatantly metaphorical, but then the metaphor is pointed out in black and white, making it somehow less moving.

But it’s still a good book. Recommended reading for anyone who’s looking for a good solid novel to read with a cup of tea.