Operation Mincemeat – Ben Macintyre

The BookDepository

 Richard and Judy Winter Read 2010

I don’t have any interest in military history or spy stories so when I saw that Richard and Judy had selected this as one of their Winter Reads I decided to challenge my preconceptions and give it a try. I’m afraid that it hasn’t converted me to into a lover of the genre, but I’m pleased that I gave it a chance.

Operation Mincemeat is a non fiction account of the planning that went into the invasion of Sicily during WWII. It details the deceptions that the British created to persuade German forces that an invasion would take place elsewhere – the plot centring on dropping a dead body into the sea off the coast of Spain with fake invasion plans.

The main problem I had with this book was that the plot was very simple. I was expecting a complex plan with lots of negotiations, spies and double-crossing, but I didn’t find Operation Mincemeat to be particularly cunning or original. It was interesting to see the massive amount of planning that went into this operation, but if this is the most exciting plot in WWII then I definitely don’t want to read any more military history.

This 400 page book was incredibly well researched, but I found many of the details boring. We were told the complete history of every person who was introduced and while some of it was relevant I didn’t care where they went to school or who their parents were.

I’m far more interested in the human side of war and this book lacked emotion. It was well written and readable, but I’d only recommend it to people who have an interest in military history.

Have you enjoyed any military history?

Can you recommend any that I might enjoy more than this one?

Send to Kindle


  1. Dan Holloway says:

    I’m likewise not a fan of military history but my wife is and I know she’d absolutely love this, so thank you for pointing it out. I’ll scour her shelves tonight for titles for you!

    1. Jackie says:

      Dan, I hope she likes it – let me know if she recommends any books for those who like a more cunning plot.

  2. Jackies Mum says:

    I remember seeing a black and white film about this as a child. Perhaps I should read the book.

    1. Jackie says:

      Mum, I’m afraid I got this one from the library, so can’t lend it to you :-( If you enjoyed the film then you might like this one – it’s a Richard and Judy selection so there are bound to be loads of copies in the libraries soon. I hope you like it more than I did.

  3. Sandy says:

    As you know, I love WWII novels, and some of them do encroach on military strategy and espionage, which has a reputation of being boring and tedious. Some of them are! I read one last year called Spies of Warsaw (Alan Furst), though, that was full of action and I really enjoyed it. Apparently Furst is known for his intriguing spy novels, and I’d read another one tomorrow. I give you credit though for giving this one a try!

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, Thanks for recommending Spies of Warsaw – I’ve made a note of it and I’ll keep an eye out for your new review too :-)

      1. Falaise says:


        I think you might well enjoy Alan Furst. His real strength is in conjuring up the atmosphere of the place and time about which he is writing and his novels are as much about the characters as about spy plots.

  4. Jenny says:

    I used to think I wasn’t interested in military history at all (because of reading the unbearably long and dull Killer Angels about the American Civil War, when I was in high school), but I’ve recently begun to be a bit more interested in it. If you do find a good one, let me know, because I have no idea where to look.

    I’m disappointed this wasn’t more complex and twisty-turny – I’ve heard of this book, and this plot, and I thought it was going to be wonderful. :/

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenny, I’m not sure I’m the person to keep an eye out for good military history books as I think I’ll avoid them for a while, but hopefully we’ll find one eventually :-)

  5. Amy says:

    Hmm… sounds interesting, but ultimately boring!

    1. Jackie says:

      Amy, I think I might have enjoyed it if it had been 50 pages long, but 400 was far too many pages for me!

  6. Steph says:

    Military fiction (or non-ficiton) is definitely not my thing! It’s always nice when you find an example of a genre you don’t normally read that you wind up enjoying. I don’t think I’ll rush out to read this one any time soon, though!

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, I think you’re right to avoid this one!

  7. Kathleen says:

    I should want to read this one since I studied History in college. But sadly I don’t think I would enjoy it. I think my son would though.

    1. Jackie says:

      Kathleen, I hope your son enjoys it :-)

  8. I’m not a fan of military non-fiction either, but kudos to you for giving it a try!

  9. Mome Rath says:

    I’ve heard about this operation. I’m surprised that the book wasn’t that enjoyable, since I found Agent Zigzag, his tale of thief-turned-double-agent, to be quite a fun read (and maybe more of a human tale that you could appreciate). I may still take a look at this book, since I find many books about WWII to be fascinating.

    1. Jackie says:

      Mome Rath, Thanks for letting me know that Agent Zigzag is a bit more human. I don’t think I’m tempted to read it, but I’m sure other readers will find that information useful and I’ll pass it on to others who mention this book :-)

  10. Jo says:

    I love history and wanted to read this book, but was not going to buy it because something about it made me think it would not be good enough after being constantly pitched as a NON fiction book in the R & J Book Club.

    However, I have acquired a copy now and I am pleased I did, because it will break up some of my other reading and I appreciate your honest review.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jo, I think that reading it alonside other books is a very good idea – the level of detail means it is hard to take in more than a few pages at once. I hope that you enjoy it more than I did.

  11. Anna says:

    I haven’t read much military history, as I prefer novels that show the impact of the war on people and society, so I think I’ll pass on this one. I hope it’s okay to link to your review on War Through the Generations.

    1. Jackie says:

      Anna, It sounds as though we have a similar taste in our books about war. Feel free to link to me – I like it when people do :-) Thank you!

Leave a Reply