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Two Brilliant Real Life Reads

Updated on May 27, 2017

People, their lives and experiences are fascinating. As a reader, sweeping sagas of one's lifetime and multi-generational reads are very much enjoyed. They are fiction and help the mind to wander and escape. Reality can be a stark contrast, however in reading works of non-fiction particularly memoirs, autobiographies and biographies it can give you a real and deep understanding of the character of the individual and their experiences. In this article, I will look at two different books. The first is about journalist Brian Keenan's time in Beirut where he was held hostage. The second is about the extraordinary life and love of a man in the early-mid 1900's.

Read this many years ago now, for high school English. By far in away the best book read in English lessons, a rarity indeed as the books picked in Scottish schools tended to be pretty dire. You get taken right into Keenan's head as he recounts the horrors he faced when he was taken captive.

As the reader, you are taken right into Keenan's head as he recounts the horrors he faced when he was held captive and imprisoned in Beirut for a number of years. Almost five in total. Whilst captured, Keenan meets John McCarthy a journalist who was taken hostage just shortly after him. It is truly horrifying and disturbing in places, their (Keenan and McCarthy) treatment at the hands of their captors but most of all it is the mental side of being held hostage, the loneliness and depression that are so stark and almost break them. The level of despair and raw emotion is evident. There are splashes of humour here and there, there needed to be to keep the men sane and this also reflects their own personalities. The often played games, tricks and told stories- inventing various ways to pass the time and to not think. As it is all true, it does make for uncomfortable reading at times. You were left to wonder how, how could people be capable of such things?

Keenan is a remarkable man. It is such an excellent read. Keenan's writing is very strong- the pages really do turn themselves, though the material is heavy how it is written is far from that. This book had a big impact on me as it was so raw. Also, at the time of reading a British engineer named Kenneth Bigley had been held captive in Baghdad. The outcome was horrific and is a story, just like Keenan's that will always stick in the mind.

Russian Version (Originally Published in English)
Russian Version (Originally Published in English)

One of my most favourite of books. It was a fantastic read, autobiographical and the most heartwarming of love stories. Brian Grover certainly lived a rich and interesting life. The places he lived and the time period in history was one that was dark and hostile- the world at and between the World Wars. An incredible story based on true events and the recollections of Grover who co-wrote it with Jim Rickards.

Set between the years 1901-48. Brian graduates from University and then opts to take up a job that involves manual work. He gets offered the opportunity to work in the oil industry in the States and there he meets Frank. He remains great friends with him throughout and Frank takes him under his wing so to speak. They leave the States and take up work in Trinidad. From there they end up in Soviet Russia. It is very interesting to read about their adventures, travel, the discovery of new countries, how the world was back then and also the nature of the work that they did. In Russia, Brian meets and falls in love with Lena, a beautiful nurse- the pair connect on a deep level. They are then separated for a period of five years and due to the restrictions on Russia's borders, Brian cannot legally re-enter the country. Brian risks it all for love and flies to Russia to reunite with his great love. This involves a great deal of work and risk. He builds the aircraft himself and learns to fly it. I wish not to reveal too much but it I highly recommend it. My own love for the book is intensified as what is recorded in this personal account truly did happen. Please see below, a link to an article if you wish to read more about their remarkable story.

Article- Operation Sweetheart, British Engineer Flies To Communist Russia For Love


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