Fortunes of War by Olivia Manning

Olivia Manning’s Balkan and Levant Trilogies are probably better known as Fortunes of War as that is what the BBC serialisation was named. The first three books were published separately between 1960 and 1965 as :

1. The Great Fortune
2. The Spoilt City
3. Friends and Heroes
and later published in one big volume as The Balkan Trilogy.

As you can see an audio version is available.

The sequel is The Levant Trilogy which was published in three volumes between 1977 and 1980 as:

1. The Danger Tree
2. The Battle Lost and Won
3. The Sum of Things.

If you’re at all interested in World War II you’ll love these books. I read them all in 2008, just before I started blogging and I don’t even have any notes on them but I thoroughly enjoyed the books and they’re written so well I was finished them in no time at all, which was the only disappointing thing really.The writer Anthony Burgess said that they were, “The finest record of the war produced by a British writer.”
Can’t say fairer than that can you?

I remember that I loved watching the BBC serialisation but for some reason it’s never been re-shown, unless I’ve just missed it somehow. It starred a very young Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh. I think it was only the second thing that I’d ever seen Emma Thompson in, the first programme was by the BBC again and it was called Tutti Frutti. It was ages ago now and again it doesn’t seem to have been re-shown. But at last, it’s out in DVD.

It was set in Scotland and also had Robbie Coltrane and Richard Wilson in it. I remember it was very funny and is just the sort of thing that they should have on now in these dark and gloomy days. Emma Thompson was able to do a very good Scottish accent. Her mother is the Scottish actress Phyllida Law.

I think I might just put the DVDs on my Christmas list, if my husband’s looking for any ideas!

5 thoughts on “Fortunes of War by Olivia Manning

  1. I have these books–they’re both trilogies, aren’t they? I’ve had them for ages–I think I may have to add the first book to my reading list for 2011! Love Emma Thompson, too!

    • Danielle,
      I think you’ll really enjoy these books. I plan to re-read them at some point and there aren’t many books that I like enough to re-read. Yes, they’re trilogies but I have them in two big volumes and they’re really autobiographical as Olivia Manning was fictionalising her wartime experiences.

  2. How well I remember the sultry summer nights in the early years of our marriage in Boston when Ken and I watched Fortunes of War on Masterpiece Theatre! Isn’t it funny–I didn’t know Emma Thompson then. I remember admiring the acting, but have never connected that viewing to Thompson’s work. How odd, and fascinating! I’m going to search for it on Netflix, but I don’t believe I’ll have success. It was a wonderful BBC series. Top-notch!

    Judith (Reader in the Wilderness)

    • Judith,
      Netflix seems to be a great thing unfortunately we can’t get it. I’m going to get the DVDs though. I hope we enjoy it as much as we did before. Gordon was born in October 1987 and Duncan was only 19 months old so I’m amazed that I was able to watch it. I thought it was pre-babies.
      We got married in 1976 not long after my 17th birthday. Sounds absolutely crazy now but my parents were moving from west to east so I was going to be homeless and people just didn’t live together in those days.
      Is Ken short for Kenneth? I’m just wondering if he has Scottish blood in him.


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