Friday book #13: Eastern Approaches

In 1937, in the midst of the Great Terror, British diplomat Fitzroy Maclean decided that it was a good time to go on a trip across the Soviet Union and visit Central Asia. Aware that he would not receive permission from the Soviet government, he decided to travel unofficially, and the story of his trip forms the first part of this memoir. Maclean’s adventures in North Africa and Yugoslavia as a member of the Special Air Service during the Second World War are the subject of the second and third parts of this week’s book. From a historical perspective, probably the most important section of the book is Maclean’s description of his time as a liaison officer to Yugoslav partisan leader Josip Tito. Supposedly, Maclean’s admiration for the partisans played an important role in persuading the British government to support them and not the Royalist Chetniks, thus paving the way for the eventual communist takeover of Yugoslavia. All in all, this is a fascinating memoir of a turbulent time in European history.