Skip to main content

Partisans - Alistair MacLean

So this is my first post on this blog and I want to do the honours by starting off with one of my favourite authors - Alistair MacLean. I don't know if you are going to judge me for this, but his books are quick-fix solution for most of my mood swings. Though not all of his books are superbly brilliant and coherent, I continue to enjoy his characters more than the plot. My first tryst with MacLean was Partisans when I must have been thirteen or fourteen and the affection lingers even now. 

Partisans is set in the middle of WW II and follows the journey of the suave protagonist Major Peter Peterson and his friends/enemies through treacherous lands and seas. The principle group comprises of five men and two women, all of whom give away far less than necessary. They are all moving towards the common goal of reaching Yugoslavia in one piece - chiefly with the help of Major Peterson - but their ulterior motives make for several life-and-death situations on the way. 

This is a very cloak-and-dagger kind of story, but unlike some his other war-themed stories, Partisans is markedly lacking in action. The characters are mostly either driving or talking, which does make the plot a little too heavy. There's plenty of political discussions (the epitome of which, according to me, is Captain Jamie Harrison's rhetoric), which would perhaps make more sense if you are well read in such matters (I wasn't, and so I had to read up separately). Also, since nothing in an Alistair MacLean novel is what it seems to be, it is best to simply to read through Partisans and hope that things tie up in the last page, which it does, well before the last page and quite satisfactorily. The one consolation is that this story had nothing to do with sea vessels and submarines (which are understandably MacLean's forte) and so a lot of the jargon was quite understandable.   

But as always, the characters are the ones that make MacLean's stories come alive. Somehow, I've always found that the stoic, good characters in his books are far well drawn out than the villains, and Partisans is no different. The trio of Major Peterson, George and Alex make up the typical MacLean-pack - incredibly sharp, quick and brilliant liars, while most of the other characters contribute in various degrees to the further establishment of the cunning of the trio. The girls - Sarina and Lorraine - provide the sympathetic, if somewhat naive, viewpoint of an unaffected observer. Wittiness and poetic sarcasm abound in the exchanges, especially those involving George, though Giacomo does his best too. My only complaint was the characters of Michael and Alex, especially the former. He was severely underutilised and when he was mentioned, it was mostly used to bring out a contrast. The poor guy had a point or two to prove too! 

The romantic angle exists too, but it barely mentioned and that, in a way, maintains the mood of the story - cold, taut and speculative. And though it may drag a little in some bits, Partisans has something of a John Le Carre feel to it, with less of the heartache.

P.S. The book in the photo above is a bit battered as it belonged to my Mom, when she bought it in 1982 at a Wheeler bookstore. Back then, it cost 12 Rupees! 


Popular posts from this blog

Top 10 books to read when you are depressed

Books are handy weapons to stave off blues - be it the dregs of the Sunday evening or a nasty bout of flu. When you are depressed, it takes herculean efforts to shake off the feeling. And I'm not even talking about the more severe, clinical form of depression. I can't get myself to pour myself a glass of water the day after Diwali; on Fridays on the other hand, I am the epitome of eternal sunshine. For such moody, dull days, these top 10 books are the surest way to dust a little sparkle in your life.
1) Three Men In A Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog): This is Jerome K. Jerome at his absolute best. It was published some 130 years back and is still capable of eliciting raucous laughter. It is the honest journal of three young, bumbling flatmates and their dog on a river cruise. Look out for some meandering, pedantic pages, but they offer some relief from the relentless humour. 
2) James Herriot'sDog Stories: If you love animals (and dogs, in particular), this is the ultimate…

List#1 The Top Ten Authors I've Read The Most Books From

So I stumbled across this blog The Broke and the Bookish quite by chance (actually I was going through another brilliant blog Fourth Street Review, which led me to TBB). They have an interesting section for Top Tens, and this time it was The Top Ten Authors I've Read The Most Books From. I'm not sure if I can name ten, but let's see here...

Alistair MacLean: Give me a warm-hearted, yet cold-demeanoured, taciturn, multifaceted gentleman, who is also a juggler with words, and a plot set in a crippled ship in hostile waters or a ice-floe or on ragged mountains, and the only other thing I'll ask for is a cup of tea to read it with.

James Herriot: I love animals. Enough said. No, but really, Herriot is the reason I took Library as my preferred choice of 'activity' at school.

John le Carre: God, its depressing to read a le Carre. But its right up there with MacLean. There's something hypnotic about his work and there have been phases when I've read nothing but …

I am currently reading...

The Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. This is proving to be a very empowering read, which I believe was the whole point of the book anyway. For those judge a book by its cover (which is also pretty badass), it really doesn't seem to even skirt the edges of feminism. At its crudest, it is a collection of stories and their analyses to help rediscover what it means to be a woman. If it sounds redundant, then it goes to show howo much we need this book. 
I must say, books of this kind are not up my alley. It feels too verbose (even by my standards) and the bluntness induced by my utter worldly view of things makes it really difficult for me to penetrate the exuberance of being a woman, as noted in the book. I am just three chapters down, so it wouldn't possibly be wise to quote a favourite right now, but La Loba seems very ethereal. The whole concept of some force (our own, presumably) that can join broken, littered pieces, is deeply appealing. 
Newspapers a…