I’ve always been tempted to try Len Deighton’s books, simply because I am partial to gritty and realistic portrayals of lives of spies. However, I never have got around to doing it, but when the BBC recently adapted SS-GB into a tv series (which I also didn’t get around to seeing) and given my recent enjoyment of ‘The Man in the High Castle‘, when I came across a copy of the book I thought it would give it a go.
Most unfortunately it is one of those books that I have had to give up trying to read. Usually when I review things I’m generally positive and I would recommend whatever film, book or tv series I’m reviewing. The thing is, I would recommend SS-GB, but I do have to say that I haven’t been able to finish reading it myself. I’ve only read about half of it and the decision to stop reading it wasn’t an easy one to make.
For most books, depending on the length, I have a 100 page rule. If I’m enjoying a book I’ll carry on, but if I’m not I won’t. I managed (struggled) to get to that point with Fifty Shades of Grey, just because I won’t dismiss something out of hand without reason. I want to have a basis for my argument. I did have a particularly bad experience with Miss Peregrine’s House of Peculiar Children, where I couldn’t get to page 100 for various reasons, which are only now beginning to disappear and feel like a distant memory.
I mention all of this, because I want you to understand the context of this decision; I started to have the same feelings with this book as I had with ‘Miss Peregrine’s House for Peculiar Children’. I was dreading having to pick it up and read it, baring in mind I was nearly at page 200 by this point. I had been enjoying it, and then for whatever reason that feeling just stopped. I will read several non-fiction books at a time (just because as a student I had to) but I never have more than one fiction book on the go at a time. I interrupted reading this book to read another, and that is an extraordinary thing for me to do.
And it isn’t because it is a bad book; on the contrary it is actually a really good book. It is just one of books in the world that just isn’t for me. The premise that attracted me to read this book is that the Battle of Britain was lost, and that Britain is currently under the occupation of Nazi Germany. What I was enjoying about the book was the story world; the creation of Britain and what it might have been like under occupation is fantastically brilliant.
The initial murder mystery plot within a war time setting, and a police officer having to find justice under extraordinary circumstances reminded me a great deal of the tv series ‘Foyle’s War’ which I am fond of watching. However, the book began to lose my interest because of the plotting, and the fact I struggled to connect to the protagonist.
It just ended up with too many layers to the plot; to many conjectures made by the protagonist based on seemingly no information at all as to where he needed to go next in order to move the plot forward. There ended up being too many supporting characters, some of whom were very well fleshed out but insignificant, with many of the main characters remaining too mysterious and two dimensional for my liking.
It was a very difficult decision to stop reading the book; I never make that decision lightly, especially when I don’t necessarily think it is a bad book and when the premise and the setting is so well thought out. It just isn’t for me, but if you like counterfactual books and period mysteries, then it might be for you.