Thomas Danforth has lived a fortunate life. The son of a wealthy importer, he traveled the world in his youth, and now, in his twenties, he lives in New York City and runs the family business. It is 1939, and the world is on the brink of war, but Danforth's life is untroubled, his future assured. Then, on a snowy evening walk along Gramercy Park, a friend poses a fateful question. As it turns out, this friend has a dangerous idea that can change the world. Danforth is to provide a place where a "brilliant woman" can receive training in firearms and explosives. This is to be the beginning of an international plot carried out by the mysterious Anna Kleina plot that will ensnare Danforth in more ways than one. When the plan goes wrong and Klein disappears, Danforth's quest begins: it is a journey of ever shifting alliances and betrayals that will lead him across a war torn world in search of answers. Now in his ninety first year, at the dawn of a troubled new era, he sits in luxury at the Century Club and tells his tale to the young man from Washington he has summoned, for reasons of his own, to hear it.
©2011 Thomas H. Cook (P)2011 Recorded Books, LLC
I bought this book because Edoardo Ballerini narrated it, plain and simple. He is so gifted that it is a pure pleasure to listen to almost every book he reads. Almost. The precis notes that the book is about a man named Thomas Danforth, and it hints that there will be more than a smattering of WWII. As many of you know, O Constant Readers (I embarrass myself), I have had it just about up to here with WWII. Schindler's List said it all. Nonetheless, the book has strong points, and those who are still in the mood for WWII books will probably like this. Thomas Danforth is, at the time of the narration, a ninety-one-year-old man who is telling the story of his involvement in the war to a young interviewer named Paul. The mechanism of switching back and forth between post-September 11 New York and the world of sixty-plus years ago is an awkward device, which constantly makes the reader repeat phrases like "years later, Thomas would..." This does get a little annoying.
The crux of the book is an unbelievably naive plot to assassinate the Fuhrer, with a crew of only four or five people. One of them is the ferociously dedicated, dark, young, Jewish woman named in the title. Danforth helps train her and falls deeply in love with her, despite the fact that the assassination attempt is a suicide mission. No further spoilers here, but you can imagine what happens.
Thomas Cook is an extremely gifted writer. If I were you, I would start with "Streets of Fire," which is IMHO a much better book than this. No sense comparing the two books; I just feel that SOF is a much more accessible book, and is much more compelling (oops, I did compare, didn't I?). So what.
Once again Mr. Ballerini's talents are so remarkable that they cover some of the less interesting aspects of the book. His skills with accents and multiple languages are just astounding. It is possible that he speaks all these languages; if not, he has one heck of an ear for the musical sounds of languages. Even German, that most guttural and in other ways off-putting of languages, becomes soft and buttery in his mouth. I must warn you that there is some plenty gruesome stuff: you might want to skip the particulars of the guillotine. There is a deeply felt romance at the heart of the book, an opposites attract version between Danforth and Anna, and that part of the book is done pretty well. Maybe you could just skip the entire WWII part, but that would leave you with about a third of a book. Which, come to think of it, would not be a bad idea
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