The Guns of Navarone (novel)

A highly enjoyable read of a most desperate of missions

Book cover for the guns of Navarone

What it’s about

An entire navy had tried to silence the guns of Navarone and failed. Full-scale attacks had been driven back. Now they were sending in just five men, each one a specialist in dealing death. But the question is can they do the impossible and finally silence the guns of Navarone?

My thoughts

​First thing’s first, counter to popular belief this is not based on a true story and there is no island of Navarone, the only truth to the story is the historical context of which it is supposed to be a part of, which is the Dodecanese Campaign, a campaign by the Allies to capture the Italian-held Greek islands in the Aegean Sea back in 1943.

In terms of whether it is any good, the simple answer is yes it is a highly enjoyable read. In terms of whether it’s better than the film which perhaps it is better known as these days, not better just a little bit different, and a little bit is very much the word.

For example in the film there are female characters but in the book there are not, also in the film the main characters Andrea and Mallory have on a personal level fallen out. Basically Andrea blames Mallory for the death of his family and plans to kill him after the war.

In the film a large part of the story is the characters dealing with this issue and resolving it, but this issue does not exist in the book and in fact in the book Mallory and Andrea have an unbreakable bond and that unbreakable bond is a large part of the story.

I have to say I do prefer the film’s idea of the tension between them as it just adds another element but I take nothing away from the book, which is an enjoyable read, and perhaps what Alistair MacLean does best is making you feel like you are really out there on the fictional island of Navarone and are being hunted by the Nazis.

Literally the connection you feel to the characters as they as they are hunted and get more and more beaten up and more and more desperate, is what really sells this book and is its standout feature over the film version. You can just really feel the sense of sacrifice both mental and physical not only needed to be made but that they are willing to make and are making, you can also feel their turmoil due to their inner desire to save a fallen comrade yet knowing that their efforts to do so risk the mission.

And in fact I would say the most endearing part of the novel is just how hard they fight to keep Andrew Stevens, not just alive but out of captivity, the fact that they carry him on a stretcher for the majority of the book really drives home their sense of desperation. Also the inner turmoil around their fears about the mission being compromised if he was taking into captivity is a nice touch.

All in all this is a great read, and an easy read as the majority of the English is just basic, the only thing I will say is the sequence at the end when they finally reach Navarone, I had to reread that section as I got completely lost with the logistics of where they were and the exact details of just what they were doing, in all honesty the problem was that I could not in my head buildup an accurate image of the place which for this section is highly important.

With this in mind should you choose to read it, when they reach Navarone and especially when they reach the guns I suggest you really concentrate as it is very easy to get lost at this point. But other than that this is an enjoyable and easy read, not the sort that will blow your mind but the sort that you could happily read on a Saturday evening before bed which means it gets a thumbs up from me.

Writer: Alistair MacLean

Genre: action, war, historical

Year: 1957


Author: David Graham

Sci-fi and fantasy writer, blogger and photographer emanating from the north-east of England.

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