The Last Goodnight: A World War Story of Espionage, Adventure & Betrayal by Howard Blum was a good book that I didn’t particularly like. It wasn’t the author’s fault. I’ll explain why.
Betty Pack was a debutante, a woman of good family from the United States, who married an English diplomat. The marriage wasn’t great, but Betty had a talent and that was making men talk. The English government used this ability throughout World War II to find out vital war information. So what if Betty had to ignore her marriage vows in order to gain this information? It’s not as if it haunted her for the rest of her life…
This was a well-written, well-researched book that was very interesting. I would’ve loved it if I didn’t dislike the heroine so much.
Betty Pack married an English diplomat to hide a pregnancy, then she cheated on him (repeatedly) before divorcing him. She wasn’t much more faithful to her next husband who she actually loved. She’s the reason I didn’t like the book. She didn’t have much of a moral compass, and I find cheating loathsome.
The other main characters included her husbands, the second of which actively assisted in her spying, and the man who brought her story to the world.
The story starts decades after the war. Betty’s a lonely wife stuck in nowhere France with her ailing husband. In comes a man from her past, a fellow ex-spy, that wants to make money off her fascinating life-story. As she tells her story, it flashes back to her past, a past filled with sex, lies, betrayal, and secrets. Occasionally we come back to Betty’s present to find out why now, after all these years, she’s willing to tell her story: she’s sick and searching for elusive happiness, something that she’s never found despite (or because of) her numerous affairs.
The writing’s great. There’s never been an issue with that. If Blum wasn’t such a good writer, he wouldn’t have made Betty so real (and she was real—this is a true story), and I wouldn’t dislike her so much.
This book is good, and I know I shouldn’t judge Betty Pack for her choices, but they make her unlikeable. I don’t like her as a person, not even a little bit. However, the story itself provides very interesting insights into (some) women, their work during World War II, and their place in a changing world.
The writing makes it better, but my feelings of depression while reading it knocks it down. Again, it’s Betty Pack, not Howard Blum.
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