Book Review: Over the Wire by Philip H. Newman (Four Stars)


Book Review: Over the Wire: A POW’s Escape Story from the Second World War by Philip H. Newman

(Four Stars)

“Those were the days before antibiotics. How different was the whole aspect of war surgery; the fear of infection dominated the surgeon’s objective and the smell of the wounds was unforgettable.”

Amazing true story of a British surgeon left behind at Dunkirk with hundreds of wounded and captured . Newman relates the hopes, fears, and determination of the prisoners as they a shuffled back and forth across the Third Reich. Includes pictures, taken after the war.

“The grounds were full of German soldiers talking to the wounded. All the softening-up propaganda of taking no prisoners, shooting intelligentsia and officers melted spontaneously into the vivid blue sky. It was a peaceful scene.”

Newman and those around him adapt and start planning escapes. Many parallels to The Great Escape, based on Paul Brickhill’s 1950 book undoubtedly because of the parallel circumstances. Newman published in 1983.

Vous comprenez?’
Oui, oui, mais quelquechose formidable pour vous.’
N’importe, c’est un grand plaisir.’

Quibble: Newman reports many conversations with the French in French, and doesn’t bother to translate. Americans may be among the most monolingual people in the world, but a paraphrase here and there would be helpful. That said, online translators reveal key words and patterns help comprehension.

“‘Ask and it shall be given you’. That was exactly what had happened and it kept my mind wondering for much of the night.”

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Over the Wire by Philip H. Newman (Four Stars)

  1. I never assume people will understand my foreign phrases, so there will be a gentle, in context gist somewhere very near, before the reader starts to wonder. It can be done.

    I still haven’t gotten to all the translations of one of my favorite books, Busman’s Honeymoon, but Dorothy L. Sayers wrote in a time where she could assume her readers had Latin and at least French.

    It would be easier to forgive the WWII Germans if there hadn’t been such a massive death count. The fact that a few prisoners (officers?) were treated well hardly counts against the toll.

    We forget how much we owe penicillin.

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