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War infects everything it touches. For everyone, whether combatant or not, it is the most testing of times, when the old certainties and moral imperatives cannot be guaranteed. Life hangs by a gossamer thread and many people who would otherwise not keep diaries feel the need to record what they see, feel and do. Arranged like a diary, The Secret Annexe tells many individual stories - some horrific, some hilarious - of many wars down the ages, with several compelling entries for each day of the year. The diarists come from every walk of life, from friend and foe, from anonymous foot-soldiers to those charged with orchestrating battle, from the Home Front to the Holocaust, from famous writers, political leaders and fighting men and women to ordinary working people enveloped by events over which they have little influence. Together they contribute to the most intimate insight into what's been described as "the most exciting and dramatic thing in life". Complementing the diary entries are comprehensive biographies and bibliographies of the diarists as well as summaries of each of the wars covered.
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IRENE AND ALAN TAYLOR, editors of The Assassin's Cloak, both worked as librarians before exploring other professions. Irene now works for the National Trust for Scotland and Alan is writer-at-large for the Sunday Herald, as well as writing for a range of other papers.Review:
The Assassin's Cloak was a treasury to return to at random. The same can be said of The Secret Annexe. Smuggled in to this selection is the telling suggestion that, even in wartime, life goes on. War may be an inferno, but the human comedy prevails. * * Observer * * The writers are mere flotsam on the tides of war. Their words are subjective, partial, personal, sometimes prejudiced, and occasionally mundane. But taken together and spanning centuries of warfare, they are the very stuff and substance of human experience. * * The Times * * This is a wonderful anthology. Imaginatively compiled and thoroughly edited. The Taylors have a sharp eye for revealing detail and a sense of humour, so that the awesome and tragic are balanced by the humdrum and quirky. * * The Herald * * A triumph in which the full range of human emotions associated with war is laid bare before us. -- Alexander McCall Smith
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