Such Splendid Prisons
Potomac Books (2020)
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (12/2020)
In “Such Splendid Prisons,” Harvey Solomon takes us into the worlds of five Axis diplomats who were detained by the United States during World War II. Solomon begins his story by introducing us to these detainees and their families. While they each came from different backgrounds, they were all a part of the socially elite crowd. Several of their stories involved subterfuge and even espionage. It is quickly apparent that not all are whom they pretend to be. Many of them had issues with those who were from other countries. Placing them together made their lives much more difficult because of the animosity.
Solomon writes in a manner that makes the reader feel like they are watching the detainees lives rather than reading about them. He chose interesting, yet somewhat eccentric individuals whom I found fascinating. The settings are vividly described and easy to picture. There are also many photographs of these individuals. Before December 7, 1941, it was a time when these people flourished and played interesting roles in our history. Being part of the socially elite, they were accustomed to luxury and social protocol. Then everything changed for them. Despite being moved to luxurious hotels, nothing made up for their loss of freedom. They were granted exceptional treatment in hopes that United States diplomats, who were in other countries, would be treated equally well. They not only became detainees to prevent them from committing acts against our country, but also to protect them from Americans who took issue with them still being allowed to be in the United States and living in such fine quarters.
I truly wish I hadn’t blown through my social science classes in high school and college. I would do what I had to do to get an A or B, but not enough to have the knowledge set in my memory. As I am getting older, I realize that I wish I had paid a lot more attention to history. Trying to make up for lost time, I am reading books and watching documentaries. This time, I am enjoying the experience. “Such Splendid Prisons,” makes an excellent reading selection for others like me. Readers will a passion for history will also enjoy it. It really opened my eyes to learning more about a huge issue, during World War II, that wasn’t greatly discussed during my education. I appreciate how well the author makes his words flow. He seamlessly blends referenced material so the reader does not feel like they are reading a textbook. I also appreciated the epilogue where I got to see how people who were mentioned in the book, finished up their lives.
“Such Splendid Prisons,” tells an eye-opening story about a period of time in the history of the United States where seemingly innocent individuals had their freedoms taken away. In addition to being well written, it also has been well researched. I highly recommend it!