SECOND OPINION: Ike and Kay by James MacManus

Review published on May 11, 2018.

This novel is a great mix of historical fact and fiction and it shed new light for me on WWII from the American perspective.

In 1942, Kay Summersby’s life is changed when, after driving ambulances in the Blitz, she becomes the driver for General Eisenhower in London. Before reading this, I didn’t know of the speculation about an affair between Ike and Kay, but James MacManus’ account of how their relationship developed, how Kay went with him to North Africa and then to France after D-Day, is fascinating. The historical note at the end is interesting in explaining the author’s sources and it left me convinced that his interpretation is right.

In many ways though, how much is biography and how much fiction doesn’t matter in such an engaging and well-written story. I think there is an excellent mix here between keeping to historical fact and imagining the feelings and conversation of both protagonists. I learnt a lot about the war, and about Ike and Kay, but I also enjoyed it as moving and compelling story.

It works equally well as a personal and a group read. There is plenty to discuss about the characters and the choices they make, but also the issue about balancing fact and fiction, especially when the main characters are real people in the not very distant past.

Berwyn Peet 5/5

Ike and Kay by James MacManus
Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd 9780715652947 hbk Mar 2018

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