Operation Heartbreak by Duff Cooper

Operation Heartbreak

Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Fiction, WW2 Fiction, British Literature, Historical Fiction

Medium: Paperback

Synopsis: Operation Heartbreak is based off of the famous Operation Mincemeat, a successful British “disinformation” strategy in World War II.  In this novel, we meet Willie Maryngton, a young man with no familial relationships for him.  As World War I ends, England cheers, but Willie is heartbroken: he will never get to be a soldier.  So he waits.  He enlists.  And once the threat of World War II hits, he is more than ready to take up arms–if the army will have him.

Review: What a book.  I bought this from Persephone books based off of the excerpt they provided, so all I knew was that the language flowed well for me and it looked interesting enough.  To my surprise, it was World War fiction, which isn’t a genre I prefer (I took a British Lit class pertaining to World War I literature, and it just never caught my fancy).  But after the first chapter, I was hooked.

Willie is such a funny character.  He’s also a little sad, and sometimes a little pathetic, but I found him to be charming altogether.  He’s had quite the unfortunate life, filled with rejection, heartbreak, and difficulties getting promoted.  However, that’s not to say that the book is depressing–it’s actually quite humorous.  Cooper throws in humor at just the right times, in just the right conversations.  It’s as though you’re reading about real people rather than characters!  When characters are that real in books, I know that those books find themselves rather high on my favorites list.

Additionally, because this book is about war, I have to say that it’s not gory or bloody whatsoever.  Cooper does a really nice job of talking about just how horrific the things were by not talking about them (“‘Come on,’ he urged, ‘tell me more about it.  What sort of time did you have?’ / ‘Pretty bloody,’ she said, and he could get nothing more out of her, but he felt as he returned to the country that she had come closer to the war than he had.”)

What I also really liked was how Duff Cooper writes about those getting involved in the war.  It wasn’t simply just patriotism that ignited the flame in these characters.  It was a sense of duty, a hatred of Nazis, the want to have a steady job after the war (if they survived).

One other thing that I really enjoyed was how he wrote women–there are two main women in this novel, and a couple others scattered around.  And why I really enjoyed his writing of these women is that (taking into account that this was written over 50 years ago, of course) all of the women had their own lives.  They had their own aspirations, and they acted on them.  And Willie, as well-meaning as he is, can’t possibly understand this.  These women are just too against the grain.  He never truly holds it against them, though he does find himself to be frustrated from time to time.

All in all, I just really enjoyed this book.  This book was also the first book in probably a year that I read all in one day.  The ending felt whole and complete, and I closed the book feeling satisfied, if not a little melancholy, too.  I can see why Persephone Books chose to reprint this one–it’s full of life, human emotions, and great writing.

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