DARK STAR: Alan Furst

Furst provides us a grim reminder of how even the commonest of people’s lives were upturned and capsized by the base, selfish actions of European despots as the events leading to WWII unfolded around their legs.

It should give us pause to remember how much of the world’s populace still lives such capricious lives today, and a stark reminder of how fragile the system put in place in the post-war West, one that provided peace and prosperity for close to 100 years, could just as quickly unravel, as today’s modern leaders once again put their personal selfish needs above the world’s.

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Zoo Station: David Downing

I’ve read all of Downing’s “Station” books before, but decided to go back to the source and remind myself what makes a good writer.

Downing provides extraordinary portraits of decent, ordinary people in extraordinarily evil times. My favourite Nazi-timeline series.

All the Light You Cannot See: Anthony Doerr

An orphan boy and a blind girl caught up on opposite sides of the maelstorm called World War II. ALL THE LIGHT YOU CANNOT SEE has all the makings of a trite, cliched pantomime. Instead, it is a searing portrait of WWII daily life, focusing on common people instead of major events and battles and heroes and villains.

Werner has charmed me forever.

It’s not often I agree with the majority (I’ve only ever voted for a successful politician once), but this clearly belongs on all the bestseller lists.

The Swiss Spy: Alex Gerlis

It took until my e-reader told me I had read 73% of the book to understand why Gerlis bothered writing this book at all.

The historical facts are well known, leaving no suspense. The writing is bland and expository. The characters are such cardboard cutouts I frequently had to thumb backwards to remember who was who.

Then, finally, at the 73% mark the titular protagonist performs the one decent act in the book, which naturally marks him for death.

So I guess that’s the purpose: spying is a nasty, dirty business that can only end in misery and death. Much like this book.

The Plot Against America: Philip Roth

The problem with this book is that it’s neither fish nor fowl. Roth is a literary writer. He’s trying to write genre fiction: alternative history. In Roth’s hands, the two don’t mix. The result is as appetizing as mixing soy sauce into coffee and trying to enjoy it. The result is foul.