One of those GREAT, sweeping spy epics. Furst stands right with le Carré (The Spy Who Came in From the Cold), Littell (the Company), and Mailer (Harlo..Show More »t's Ghost) in his ability to capture the ambiguity, color, temperature and texture of prewar Europe as well as the people and claustrophobia of War.
I'm glad I decided to crack this spy nut. While there are segments here and there I didn't think were fantastic, on the whole, the entire novel was worth the time, effort, and credit. Spy fiction doesn't get much better than this. I read/listened to an earlier novel of his a few months ago (Mission to Paris) while traveling in E. Europe and almost ended my Furst journey before it began. I'm glad I went back to the beginning. Just based on this ONE novel, I'm about ready to commit to the next three or four Night Soldier novels.
Alan Furst's great historical espionage novel, Dark Star is a prewar epic of Europe's moral ambiguities and shifting loyalties. Told through the eyes ..Show More »of Pravda journalist and Luftmensch (and sometimes NKVD spy) André Szara, the story stretches from Paris to Berlin, Warsaw, and even down to Izmir. In this novel Furst examines ideas of trust and suspicion, love and hate, magnetism and repulsion.
It is a novel about the compromises good men make to survive, the power that a few evil men have over millions, and the sacrifices a few Luftmenschen make to save thousands. Ultimately, Dark Star is a story of the Russian and German nonaggression pact (Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact) at the beginning of WWII and how the Jewish members of Stalin's spy network were forced to make huge compromises to survive (most didn't survive) and how some were pushed into heroics because decency and the times demanded it.
The magic of this novel is that Furst is able to unweave the complicated nature of the prewar spy alliances and show all the different threads and colors and never lose the reader. His prose is amazing. His characters are nearly perfect. One of my favorite historical spy novels of all time.
I have listened to all of Furst's unabridged novels and wish there were more. All of his books are very well written, with none of idiotic, unrealist..Show More »ic dialogue that plagues most spy/mystery books.
If there is a better reader than George Guidall, I have not found him. One of many reasons to admire him is his ability to pronounce correctly French, Russian, Polish and other languages, instead of the Anglicized versions which are the usual and customary fare.
But most importantly, Furst affords the listener a clarifying view of one of the most shrouded and inhuman (we like to think anyway) eras in history. Europe from 1933 to 1945, described not via battles, generals or politicians, but by men and women doing what they could despite being terrified and alone. The characters are wonderful, the deviousness of the leaders horrific, and the dialogue some of the most clever, insightful, and at times funny, that I have ever read.
Furst's fourth Night Soldiers' novel switches narrators to Jean Casson, a French movie producer. He is a reluctant hero who is drawn into the secret w..Show More »ar against the Nazi occupiers of France.
With 'The World at Night', Furst is able to again relate the way WWII impacted typical Europeans in ways that most fiction and nonfiction writers who focus on Europe's second world war seem to often miss or overlook.
A solid Furst novel, just not a great one. But take that with a grain of salt. Minor Furst novels (like le Carre) are often miles better than 9/10 of the historical spy fiction out there
A decent follow-up to 'The World At Night', 'Red Gold' continues the saga of Jean Casson's struggle to survive both morally and physically in Nazi occ..Show More »upied and collaborating France.
I prefer Furst's novels that center on Eastern European characters ('the Polish Officer', 'Dark Star', 'Night Soldiers') instead of French, but it is hard to deny that even though it isn't a major Furst novel, it is still a highly readable one. Using Jean Casson allows Furst to explore the world of those French collaborators, profiteers, and elites of Pétain's France who refused to see the German occupiers for what they were. Furst clearly demarks the fragmented France that was left after Germany's invasion and the Vichy collaboration.
This novel should be read closely with 'A World at Night'. Like I wrote about that novel, even though I find this to be a minor Furst novel, it is context that matters. Most spy novelists don't approach the art or the skill of a minor Furst novel. So enjoy.
There were moments I absolutely loved this book, but then it would unravel and drop. The whole fabric of the novel was just a tad too rough. The narra..Show More »tive was beautiful, like all Furst novels, but it didn't have much forward momentum. Other than the jumpy, rough plot -- I loved it. You can practically fall asleep in the whole dark, smokey, Hungarian/French flavor. Furst is amazing at describing the grease between the gears of history
'Blood of Victory' is an oblique sequel to 'Kingdom of Shadows' and the seventh novel in Furst's 'Night Soldiers' series. This novel, however, is set ..Show More »more in Romania and deals with the intrigue around the travels of Ilya Serebin a Russian emigre who runs a organization for Russian exiles and gets caught up in trying to slow Hitler's march into Romania and eventually, inevitably Russia. It is a story about Romanian oil, Hitler's dark creep and the shadows and hard-boiled misfits that wander around, without a home, trying to stop him.
I don't know if it just sepia-fatigue but Furst's novels just aren't hitting me as hard as they once did. 'Blood of Victory' was better written than his last novel, and Furst's plots and characters are still inovative, but just not brilliant. I know I'm asking a lot, and perhaps I'm just weary of the cinematic, hard-boild schtick. I might need to put Furst to rest for a bit. He is too good a genre writer to give up on, but I might have just over-dosed on the Furst world's war.
A non-typical Furst novel, 'Dark Voyage' is primarily centered on a Dutch captain (DeHaan), his multicultural crew, and the merchant marine perils tha..Show More »t faced sailors from the Mediterranean to the Baltic seas. Every book Furst writes appears to grow from the same thesis, but stretch into entirely new areas. This was a nice deviation from his normal East European or Parisian locals.
With every Furst novel, I become more and more amazed at the nuance of his novels. He seems content to write his novels in the periphery of history. His characters float past major events like mouches volantes through the dark vision of history. He wants to tell the story of minor characters, minor battles, minor countries that together all made a major difference in WWII.
Alan Furst is wonderful at atmosphere but slim on plot development lately - this book is a return to his best, like The Polish Officer and Night Soldi..Show More »ers, which is still his best book in my opinion. Foreign Correspondent has strong characters, a likable hero and an interesting story line. Well worth the time.
Lt. Col. Mercier is a complex yet loveable man, who is highly intelligent and thrust into a benign role as handler prior to WWI in Warsaw. The plot w..Show More »hich draws him into an ever tightening circle of intrigue dovetails unexpectedly and omniously with the feel of a true story prior to the invasion of Poland during WWII. What is best about Alan Furst's books, especially this one is that you are immediately in Warsaw and Paris in Springtime, at that time at that moment, every detail, every nuance enriches the story.
I'm familiar with The Polish Officer and Dark Star and I was incredibly disappointed with this book. Admittedly, I am interested in spy/espionage/thri..Show More »llers with tension and suspense driving the characters. This book seemed mired in historical details piled upon details, most of which led nowhere, dramatically speaking, but more a statement by the author about his take on events past. A comparison, though perhaps not a perfect one, would be a very knowledgable history teacher telling a story set in the past in another locale, only to abandon storytelling frequently and elaborate on historical events at that time and place.
Perfunctory bits about the protagonist recalling women brushing up against him, musing about their name, sketching a past event with them, never had me engaged in relationships with them, therefore no sense of loss when things didn't work out, when they were left behind and lost.
Long sections attempting by the author to get into the heart of darkness of a man at odds with his environs and associates, felt like verbal angst from the author, not from character actions and resulting reactions. There were so many characters that in depth exploration was usually a stated opinion of the first person speaker, not displayed by characters Events were introduced in a way that built predictability of their outcome, drained suspense from one section to the next.
It was an effort to stay with this reading until the end, though the reader's character interpretations were captivating in tone at times. I'm not sure of the primary interest of readers who praise it but it's not a book I recommend for hounds of spy, thriller, espionage stories against international and historical backdrops..
This is my first introduction (other than by reputation) to Alan Furst, and while the novel was interesting and well-researched from a historical pers..Show More »pective it just wasn't a great spy thriller. Perhaps, I was hoping Mission to Paris would be grittier, but it seems like Furst was more interested in telling this pre-WWII spy novel in the tone and style of a Cary Grant/Gary Cooper movie script.
Stahl is a pawn in a political/spy/war game between big power; a lover of a lot of attractive and dangerous women; a reluctant hero, a smoldering spy. Yeesh. It wasn't THAT over-the-top, but it just wasn't what I expected. Predicable, and almost throw-away, but still enjoyable. Mission to Paris is a good vacation or beach read, just not a spectacular spy novel.
The narration was dynamic. David Gerroll, like Furst himself, pays attention to the details.