JOE'S WAR: My Father Decoded

Annette Kobak, Author . Knopf $25.95 (464p) ISBN 978-0-375-41184-7

Raising his family in Britain during the Cold War, Joe Kobak was frequently in ill temper and given to oppressive silences. As she reached late middle age, his daughter, Annette, found she needed to pierce the veil of secrecy surrounding him—the result is this unusual, and unusually personal, account of WWII. The story belongs equally to father and daughter, as the author forges a new intimacy with Joe and receives an accelerated dose of recent European history. A Czech living in Poland when hostilities began, Joe was a bright young man with a technical cast of mind and a tenacious memory. During the war, he smuggled people out of Poland, was strafed by German fighters during the fall of France, and relayed intercepted German radio transmissions to British code breakers. Kobak (biographer of Isabelle Eberhardt) uses her investigations into these experiences as an occasion to document one of the many tragedies of WWII—the prewar and wartime betrayal of the smaller Eastern European countries by France and Great Britain. Along the way we learn of the heroes of prewar Czechoslovakia, Masaryk and Benes, and of the deep enmity between Poland and the Ukraine. Kobak interpolates a diplomatic history of the 1930s and early 1940s with her father's adventures in Eastern Europe and her own as she retraced some of Joe's wartime travels in 2001. Part memoir, part Joe's first-person narrative, part historical account, the book violates genre boundaries—but it is precisely this lack of affectedness, couched in graceful, perceptive writing, that makes it such an engrossing and informative work. 20 photos, 2 maps. (Mar. 16)

Reviewed on: 02/09/2004
Release date: 03/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-0-307-42647-5
Paperback - 444 pages - 978-0-375-72612-5
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