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"Intelligent, provocative, and gripping novel....Beautifully and compellingly told." (Publishers Weekly)
"A rich, deeply moving novel of suspense that is equal parts espionage thriller, European history, and love story." (The New York Times)
"Captures the murky allegiances and moral ambiguity of Europe on the brink of war....Nothing can be like watching Casablanca for the first time. But Furst comes closer than anyone has in years." (Time)
I really enjoyed this book. It?s a story of espionage set in pre -WII Europe. Although its a work of fiction, the story is filled with accurate and detailed historical facts. In this sense, it reminded me of a good James Michner novel.
If I could have, I would have given the story a 4.5 star rating. There are a lot of details in it and it is NOT a book you can casually listen to. What makes it more challenging is the abundance of Polish, German, and Russian names and places? I had to listen to parts of the book a couple times to make sure I of my facts.
At times, the book may seem to lack direction, but things are tied together nicely near the end. The narrator is excellent and I?ll look for more by both the author and the narrator.
Furst spins a great yarn about a Jewish Soviet journalist who, in the years before WWII, becomes a spy for the Russians in Germany and France. The threat from his own spymasters in Moscow worries him almost as much as threat from the Nazis. He makes love to several women during his travels through Europe, but not in the half-comical James Bond/Don Juan way. He really falls in love with them. They break through the walls and rescue him from the enforced loneliness of espionage. And when he loses them, his grief is heavy and palpable.
Two things more: It helps to review a little bit of history before digging into this one, esp. the history leading up to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-Aggression Pact of 1939. Much of what goes on will be clearer. Also, George Guidall narrates this one, and he does a superlative job (once again).
I am mystified by some of the comments made by other reviewers. This is not a pleasant listen but a rather terrifying tale of survival in the midst of two brutal totalitarian regimes.
It is set in the late 1930s in Europe. Stalin has the Soviet Union in his iron grip. Millions, mostly Jewish intelligentsia, have been purged. Hitler has risen to power in Germany and is ratcheting up his plan to eliminate Jews from Germany. The protagonist, Andre Szara, is a Polish born Jew and a noted foreign correspondent for Pravda. Many of his friends and associates have been purged and he knows his days are probably limited. Now the NKVD have asked him to spy for the Soviet Union and he can hardly say no. Soon he is running spies in Germany. There's a lot more going on as this is just the beginning.
I found the book to be very intelligently written and atmospheric. I am not an espionage expert, but everything seemed very realistic. The reader was fine. I recommend this book to anyone who likes realistic historical novels about espionage.
The narrator is the best Audible has and the author has some of the best spy novels (e.g., The Foreign Correspondent), but for me this novel was boring. I only made through Part I.
Some of his other books are better. This one had too broad a story to maintain long term interest. Well written as usual. Best part was his description of how Russians thought during the Stalinist purges of the 30s.
One thing I've learned about audiobooks is that the narrator can make or break the experience. In this case, he takes exquisite, intelligent writing about an intruiging subject and creates the perfect atmosphere in which to enjoy it.
I could not stop listening to this book once I got throught the first two chapters.
I was really pleasantly surprised by this book. I was never sure who to root for--the main character is a Stalinist in the era of the purges and he is spying on the Nazis. There was a lot going on here.
A good listen. Intersting characters, good plot, and terrific atmospherics. It helps to know a little about Soviet history or at least be willing to look things up if that curious. Even, however, without much historical knowledge, the plot is still fascinating and in its broad outlines makes sense. Think Carre, noir and Littel and you will have a sense of how the book reads.
For at least 15 years I have been regularly listening to recorded books. This was one of the most boring. The narrator is my favorite. He can make books come to life. Even he could not rescue this one. Because I listen to recorded books during my commute, I have a very high tolerance for books I would not be willing to take the time to read. For an "spy-thriller" this book was extraodinarily boring. The only reason to stay with this very slow book is to get a better idea of how difficult it was for Jews around the time of WWII Germany. It has tons of dialogue, little action, and the dialogue is not all that good.
On the plus side, the book is wonderfully narrated. The narrator does a particularly job with voices, giving the listener a good feel for the characters. The writer creates a well-crafted sense of atmosphere and place, with a nice touch for details. On the minus side, despite length of book, couldn't really understand motivations of main character. Prose style also a bit self-concious, as if writer were searching too often for a clever turn of phrase. But overall pleasant and enjoyable.
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