The war, they said, would be over by Christmas. That was in 1939, and it is now January 1944. An exhausted Britain faces another year of conflict.
Meanwhile, small coastal villages in Devon are facing an invasion from an army just as foreign as that of the Germans. The Americans are smart, well-fed and well-equipped, and they have swept the bewildered citizens of South Devon from their homes in deadly earnest rehearsal for D-Day.
As the beaches echo to the sound of bullets and the local church to the strains of Glenn Miller, Americans and English are thrown together with sometimes hilarious, sometimes painful and puzzling results.
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old style writing at its best
Leslie Thomas writes in a style that can easily be put down and picked up again at a later date. The plot is simple but for persons of a certain age believable, a past way of life.
The captain of the transport boat after being injured epitomises the "stiff upper lip" of the time.
All in their way.
The loss of the boy when his curiosity with the grenade blew him up.
A great listen or read that is quite compulsive.
- michael l williams
Puts you in the picture
The Magic Army is part of Leslie Thomas' effective trilogy about the way that World War II transformed even civilian society in Britain. I first read this book (together with Dearest and the Best, and Dover Beach) nearly thirty years ago. Now, I can see even more of how Leslie Thomas showed what a watershed our first contact with the US (through the arrival of GI's in the run-up to D Day) became.
The story centres on the US Army displacement of villagers in Devon, as the military set up training camps for Operation Neptune. A war novel centring on the US invasion of a part of Britain shows many unexpected aspects of how the war experience changed even home life.
The novel must be a nightmare to read. The British characters are nearly all West Country folk, but the Americans hail from Philadelphia, New York, Connecticut. Martyn Read keeps the drama seething, and the humour bright - and gets near enough with most of the accents.
When the American Army invaded Devon.
The section about the US general's first encounter with Yorkshire Pudding, and Brussels Sprouts, is some of the finest comic writing of the later twentieth century.