Paddy Costello, along with John Mulgan, Geoffrey Cox, Ian Milner, James Bertram, and Dan Davin, was one of a cast of young scholars who made seemingly peripheral yet lasting contributions to the New Zealand post-war cultural landscape. But Costello, despite his great many gifts, never quite found his place in the world and he remains an elusive and contradictory figure, someone whose reputation rests on what he could have done rather than on what he did. Yet he continues to fascinate by his very elusiveness.
Paddy Costello was also the best friend of Dan Davin: expatriate publisher, editor, novelist, short-story writer, poet, raconteur, and not least of all an indefatigably generous host and friend to many New Zealand writers in the UK. From Cairo to Cassino recounts the beginnings and the deepening of their friendship as they talked, tippled and fought their way through North Africa and Italy. Spanning Davin's embarkation with 2 New Zealand Division at Alexandria, as it headed towards its mauling in Greece and on Crete, through to the day of the bombing of Monte Cassino, this book is many things: gentle and impassioned, candid and ironical, recondite and visceral. It is also often very funny.
One of Davin's last significant works and perhaps the one in which he made his deepest personal investment, From Cairo to Cassino confirms that he was one of our finest memoirists, as he lovingly brings Costello back to life in all his sound and fury. A significant addition to New Zealand's literature of the Second World War, this is a special book that deserves to be read and reread.