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An Officer and a Spy: A Novel | [Robert Harris]

An Officer and a Spy: A Novel

Paris in 1895: Alfred Dreyfus, a young Jewish officer, has just been convicted of treason, sentenced to life imprisonment at Devil's Island, and stripped of his rank in front of a baying crowd of 20,000. Among the witnesses to his humiliation is Georges Picquart, the ambitious, intellectual, recently promoted head of the counterespionage agency that Dreyfus had passed secrets to the Germans. At first, Picquart firmly believes in Dreyfus' guilt. But it is not long after Dreyfus is delivered to his desolate prison that Picquart stumbles on information that leads him to suspect that there is still a spy at large in the French military.
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Publisher's Summary

Robert Harris returns to the thrilling historical fiction he has so brilliantly made his own. This is the story of the infamous Dreyfus affair told as a chillingly dark, hard-edged novel of conspiracy and espionage.

Paris in 1895: Alfred Dreyfus, a young Jewish officer, has just been convicted of treason, sentenced to life imprisonment at Devil's Island, and stripped of his rank in front of a baying crowd of 20,000. Among the witnesses to his humiliation is Georges Picquart, the ambitious, intellectual, recently promoted head of the counterespionage agency that Dreyfus had passed secrets to the Germans. At first, Picquart firmly believes in Dreyfus' guilt. But it is not long after Dreyfus is delivered to his desolate prison that Picquart stumbles on information that leads him to suspect that there is still a spy at large in the French military. As evidence of the most malignant deceit mounts and spirals inexorably toward the uppermost levels of government, Picquart is compelled to question not only the case against Dreyfus but also his most deeply held beliefs about his country, and about himself.

Bringing to life the scandal that mesmerized the world at the turn of the 20th century, Robert Harris tells a tale of uncanny timeliness - a witch hunt, secret tribunals, out-of-control intelligence agencies, the fate of a whistle-blower - richly dramatized with the singular storytelling mastery that has marked all of his internationally best-selling novels.

©2014 Robert Harris (P)2014 Random Hosue Audio

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (359 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Ryan Fairbanks, AK, United States 03-18-14
    Ryan Fairbanks, AK, United States 03-18-14 Member Since 2012

    I am the most amazing version of myself that I have ever met.

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    "Top Notch Historical Fiction"
    Any additional comments?

    For me, the best authors of historical fiction teach history without their readers knowing it. How? By making the facts come alive - by humanizing history. An engrossed reader comes away with a broader perspective of the world's events AND a good story.

    An Officer and a Spy delivers on all accounts. And I must say I'm somewhat perplexed by a few of the negative reviews - I thought the book was excellent. It is the true story of Alfred Dreyfus, a French artillery man of German and Jewish descent, who is falsely accused and found guilty of treason - all of which remains today an unfortunate example of political injustice, aided largely by the court of public opinion. The story is suspenseful, engaging, emotional, and ultimately redemptive. A great listen for any audience - highly recommended.

    16 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    paris pete 03-12-14
    paris pete 03-12-14
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    "Suspenseful, Absorbing and Shocking"
    What made the experience of listening to An Officer and a Spy the most enjoyable?

    Being of French heritage, I knew of the Dreyfus Affair. But the author brings alive many parts of the Affair that were new to me. "Alive" is a key feature of Robert Harris' compelling style as he creates dialogues between key characters in this messy affair. This tale of incredible judicial corruption and personal malevolence in the highest ranks of the French Military and the Government, and the grievous harm these officials brought upon innocent people, is a lesson to be aware of today when there is still much duplicity and incompetence in the application of "justice" to ordinary citizens. The book is an exciting dramatization of the years-long struggle between crime and honor in high places.


    What other book might you compare An Officer and a Spy to and why?

    I don't know offhand.


    Have you listened to any of David Rintoul’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I have not listened to Rintoul before. I thought he was an excellent narrator, creating individual personalities for the various characters involved in the Dreyfus plot.


    Who was the most memorable character of An Officer and a Spy and why?

    Certainly Lt. Colonel Piquart.


    Any additional comments?

    Though the Dreyfus Affair took place between 1896 and 1906, the lessons to be learned from it are entirely relevant to the relationship between governments and citizens in 2014. Read this book for the pleasure of a gripping tale of suspense but also to arm yourself with a healthy dose of skepticism as you listen to today's protestations from officials trying to extricate themselves from a web of lies.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Adrian Homestead, FL, United States 02-08-14
    Adrian Homestead, FL, United States 02-08-14 Member Since 2013
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    "History Alive!"
    What did you love best about An Officer and a Spy?

    The story was gripping. Even though I knew the outcome Harris did a great job of building and sustaining that tension throughout. During the courtroom scenes, I found myself getting upset at what was going on.

    Rintoul's narration is top-notch. Next to Will Patton's narration of "Tree of Life," this is my favorite audiobook.


    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joshua Spring Mills, PA, United States 03-05-14
    Joshua Spring Mills, PA, United States 03-05-14 Member Since 2010
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    "One terrific spy story!"

    I really like spy novels which take place in well researched historical settings. (I'm a little lazy about reading straight history). Authors like Alan Furst, David Downing, Bernard Cornwell, or Phillip Kerr. If you like any of these authors, I believe you'll be very satisfied with this book.

    This novel is one of the best I've ever read, and it's true! Before I was a quarter of the way through I was looking up the Dreyfus Affair, putting faces to the names in the book. Harris's research appears to be in depth and accurate. He freely admits to using the tools of the novelist to flesh out the characters, but he doesn't play around with facts. Very Cool! His characters are alive and engrossing and he makes a confusing, complicated plot lucid. A story about a hero. A true hero. Well worth reading.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Margaret Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada 03-25-14
    Margaret Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada 03-25-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Absolutely Excellent!"

    A well writen, and excellently narrated historical book! One of the best I have read and a good example of how we never learn from or change the patterns and powers of politicians or the press.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    lrjanzen 03-10-14
    lrjanzen 03-10-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Very Good for first 2/3. Ok for the last"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes. Generaly a good listen. Excellent performance.


    What about David Rintoul’s performance did you like?

    Excellent characters and just the right tone.


    Any additional comments?

    The first 2/3 were excellent. Great suspenceand well written. The last part felt like a rush through time.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marianne PETERSHAM, MASSACHUSETTS, United States 03-09-14
    Marianne PETERSHAM, MASSACHUSETTS, United States 03-09-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Compeling"
    Would you listen to An Officer and a Spy again? Why?

    yes, it is so good and brilliantly explains a very important episode in French history


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Picard. He is a hero


    Which scene was your favorite?

    the courtroom scenes


    If you could take any character from An Officer and a Spy out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    Zola and Clemenceau


    Any additional comments?

    Marvelous

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    IRP Falmouth, ME United States 02-23-14
    IRP Falmouth, ME United States 02-23-14 Member Since 2006

    IRP

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    "Excellent Historical Novel- A Few Inaccuracies"

    I thought that this was a very well written and narrated book about an historical subject and era that does not receive enough attention. The conviction and exoneration of Alfred Dreyfus by the French Army and Government marked a watershed event in the history of that country. The French had been defeated by the Prussians in 1870-71 and the army had performed poorly. When secrets had been leaked to the German government, the army turned on Dreyfus as a scape goat- and the fact that he was a Jew from Alsace/Lorraine whose relatives remained behind in the German occupied provinces was a perfect excuse for the withhunt. Harris does a great jog in telling the story through the eyes and narration of George Piquart who almost lost his military career and life as a result of his standing up for the truth- namely that Dreyfus was framed and the military covered up the framing. The book introduces the listener to some of the key political actors who played a part in saving Dreyfus- namely Clemenceau, Zola and Jaures. It is an exciting and worthwhile listen. The only problem I had with the story is that Harris identifies Moscow and not St. Petersburg as city in Tsarist Russia that was the hub of Russian military intelligence. Not a big deal- but to a student of history like me, it bothered me. Otherwise I would recommend the book- and as a result of my listening to it, I now find my interest piqued in the Dreyfus affair

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    susan 02-09-14
    susan 02-09-14
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    "Good but not his best"

    I am a huge fan of Robert Harris--Fatherland and Ghost Writer among my all-time favorite books--and downloaded this book as soon as i read about it. In my opinion, this one falls a tad short of the high standards Harris has previously set. Having said that, i did learn a great deal about the history of the Dreyfus affair, which involved a series of disgraceful coverups, lies, and extensive corruption in the French military and some of the politicians of the time.

    A quick recap: Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer in the French military, was wrongfully convicted of leaking secrets to the Germans in the mid-1890s. He was subsequently stripped of his rank and military honors and thrown into prison for life. The fact that he was Jewish clearly added to the military's rush to conviction. When protagonist and fellow officer Georges Picquart found evidence that would prove Dreyfus' innocence, he went to great lengths and enormous personal hardship (including his own imprisonment) to set the record straight.

    However it was difficult for me to feel much empathy for, nor particularly like any of the characters until probably halfway through the listen (though in truth many of the characters are just plain unlikable, including Dreyfus himself). As a result i struggled to care much about what was happening in the earlier parts and found my mind wondering off at times. It wasn't until well into the story when Picquart began to defy his superiors' orders in favor of following his own moral/ethical code of conduct that i finally became absorbed in the story. And while i never felt much love for any of the characters, the various outrageous behaviors of so many powerful people and the utter wrongness of their actions made me care enormously about how the story ended--I so totally wanted to see the wrongs made right and good prevail over evil.

    Overall it is a fascinating piece of history and i would have given the story itself three and a half stars if that were an option. It is a good listen, and i recommend it, in spite of the above caveats. Plus David Rintoul is a superb narrator!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard Delman San Francisco 03-16-14
    Richard Delman San Francisco 03-16-14 Member Since 2006

    65 y/o father of two sons. Married 25 yrs. Audible member for 8 yrs. I can hardly read books with my eyes any more. I love reviewing.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Only for Francophiles and military historians."

    The story of Emil Dreyfuss is fairly well known to people like the above. They will no doubt love this book. As for the rest of us, not so much. It's pretty slow going. First, the narrator: David Rintoul's French accent is so good that it's annoying. He over pronounces every French word, street name, personal name and so forth that it actually grates on the nerves. Modern French is a beautiful language, spoken with melodic phrasing, lots of elisions and a casual manner which is hard to master. Mr. Rintoul has done the opposite. He pronounces each word as if it were a royal address in front of an extremely learned and stuffy body. He could really lighten up. The book suffers from his formality and the absence of nuance in his speech. Less would definitely have been more here.
    The story of Dreyfuss's conviction for treason, clearly a misstep by the French government of the late 1800's, is sickeningly riddled with ferocious anti-Semitism. The coverup by the military and politicians is as plodding as an elephant. The hero of the story, Major George Picard, is a very easy guy to like, a guy who believes in the truth and is genuinely horrified to see the government turn against him, convicting him in a kangaroo court. Corruption, petty and large, is rampant. Villains are juicy and easy to hate. For those of you who haven't read Robert Harris before, you may be delighted at how deep his research is, how authoritative his voice is, and how you come to fully subscribe to his version of reality. These things just must have happened in this way, because Mr. Harris says so in such an articulate fashion. And, in case there was any doubt about the collusion of the French with the Nazis in WWII, that doubt should be put to rest here. Even though there are over 140n years between the Dreyfuss affair and WWII, the French come off as slimy collaborators. The camps may have been in Austtria, Poland and Germany, but the Jews were rounded up in small towns all over France, stuffed into rail cars and sent off with the utmost cruelty to their unspeakable deaths. It is hard to be romantic about France, a country I have visited many times, and a country which is justifiably proud of its culture, art, music, food, wine, museums, and so forth. To see up close and personal the evils that underlie all of that beauty can be a very tough thing to face. Mr. Harris makes us face it unflinchingly. The book is a tough read, but Mr. Harris continues to put out authoritative, brilliantly researched depictions of some of the most important points in human history. Pompeii is worth listening to. I found this one a pretty rough go.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
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