Operation Ivy Bells by Robert G. Williscroft was an historical novel about a secret naval intelligence gathering mission during the Cold War era. The author’s personal experiences make his telling of the story accurate and engaging. The story is told in first person narrative and I had the sense that many parts were told just they would be related when telling the story to a buddy.
At first I had a hard time getting into the book. I’m not a war story fan and for the same reason I have a hard time watching war movies with my husband I had a hard time getting into this novel. The terminology is not something I was familiar with in general. The author did explain things in civilian terms which helped me to understand, but, made the reading a little slow. After the first quarter of the book I put it down for awhile. I read several other books of different genres before I picked Operation Ivy Bells up again. I’m glad I did. The last three quarters of the book had me fully engaged. The mission heated up and there was a quite a bit of suspense. Much like the author’s description of the daily lives of submariners. “endless hours of tedious boredom, interrupted by moments of sheer panic” I found some sections a little boring, though they were not endless. The moment the story went to sheer panic I was all in. The boring parts were very short so I had little problem staying with the story. During maneuvering of the submarine the dialog and descriptives read to me much like a Clancy novel. I enjoyed the main character getting to know the enemy submarine commander through analyzing what he would do if the tables were turned and his admiration of the enemy commander’s skills. Out there submarine against submarine I had to admire the way the author depicted the main character getting into the head of the enemy. The authors narrative on this is just as I would imagine a leader would think and analyze a situation and the enemy leader.
The event that this novel portrays is a real part of American military history. I had no idea that this had ever happened and it opened my eyes to the capabilities of military intelligence at the time. I’m supposing that sometime during my adult life the mission was declassified since the author was able to write about it. But I didn’t get that news when it broke so this was a new history lesson for me. I did enjoy the book and for those who have similar experiences in the military I believe the book would be one to bring back memories of a previous time in life. I’m sure that military and history buffs would enjoy this book tremendously and be more inclined to give a top notch rating. I’d give this one a 4 out of five rating.
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