Monday, July 30, 2007

Alan Furst...

Instead of individual reviews for several of Alan Furst's latest novels, I think a general review is best, and for these reasons: they all have the same ambiance, they all deal with WWII, and pre-WWII, and they are all excellent novels. Furst's name was mentioned in reviews for both John Le Carre novels and Eric Ambler novels, and one comment was that Furst seems to have been influenced by Ambler. To lump Furst into the espionage genre would be a mistake because his writing is evocative, enthralling and always of the highest caliber. Although the main characters are involved in some espionage dealings in one way or another, most of them are caught in circumstances that have directed them into the shade rather than having made a choice. A Russian Marxist journalist who becomes disillusioned yet sees the necessity for anti-Nazi (Dark Star, 1991)activity, a Frenchman (The World at Night 1996, and Red Gold, 1999) of the upper class whose career as a movie director is wobbling already and brought down by the German occupation of Paris and his unwillingness to collaborate, and an Hungarian expatriate (Kingdom of Shadows 2000) who finds himself caught up in plotting by his own and opposing countries and factions - all these men and some of their associates seem to enter the flow of history and join fortune with an integrity and character they are surprised to find in themselves. Furst leaves his stories at a resting place rather than an end and we are satisfied because these stories couldn't have ended in their historical context.

For character and sense of place, Alan Furst's work is a gem of a find. I think we all at times have wondered how we would really act under duress of war and inhumanity, and we only hope we never find out. The characters in Furst's work find out.

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