Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dancing with Colonels: A Young Woman's Adventures in Wartime Turkey by Marjorie Havreberg

Dancing with Colonels: A Young Woman's Adventures in Wartime Turkey
by Marjorie Havreberg

This book is excellently described by the subtitle with one minor quibble, Turkey was never actually at war. It was neutral, which gave the Allies and Axis ample opportunities for espionage and the like. Unfortunately, we don’t hear about any of that in this book. The letters are those that the author sent home, first, from her job working for a United States Senator, later as a civilian working for the war department as a secretary for the military attaché in Turkey.

As the substantial introduction points out, she didn’t talk much about her job which is understandable. There is a comment in one of the letters that they passed through a government censor. However, there is little here about the wider war either. The book is interesting in that it describes just what was served at a cocktail party in the 1940s, but beyond that I found myself not caring who was a good dancer or who was funny over dinner. A few of the people mentioned are relatively famous. Luckily, there are end notes that give short biographies for those that I had not heard of. The book concludes with a biographical note on her later life and a remembrance from one of her relatives.

So who is this book aimed at? Honestly, I am not really sure. There is not enough here for someone looking for an in depth look at the diplomatic service in Turkey. The writing in and of itself is decent enough, more geared towards travel writing than anything else. They took a few memorable trips into the mountains, for instance. Possibly if the introduction had not been so thorough, I would be more forgiving towards the text.

Strangely, this is one case where there is too much academic apparatus, at least for me. I felt that I could have simply read the introduction and that would have been enough, making the next 180 pages or so almost superfluous.

Not recommended.

 Note:This book was provided through Librarything's early reviewer Program.

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