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An Officer and a Spy: A novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 28, 2014
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An Amazon Best Book of the Month, February 2014: A spy thriller and psychological examination, Robert Harris’s An Officer and a Spy looks at the infamous Dreyfus affair through the personage of a functionary-turned-whistle-blower. It’s Paris, 1895. A Jewish army officer, Alfred Dreyfus, has been convicted of treason and is imprisoned on Devil’s Island; he has been publicly humiliated, bound in chains, banished to solitary confinement. But was he really a spy for Germany--or was his fate sealed because he was a Jew in an anti-Semitic time and place? Slowly, the petit bureaucrat Georges Picquart begins to suspect that Dreyfus--portrayed here mostly through heart-wrenching real-life letters he wrote from prison to his beloved family--has been scapegoated. As Picquart amasses more and more evidence about Dreyfus, he also must come to terms with some of his own behaviors and attitudes. Still, for all its delicious detail about the mores of Belle Epoque Paris, both social and political, this novel is also one for the ages, or at least for the ages in which powerful intelligence agencies, government surveillance and cover-ups are worrisomely becoming the norm. --Sara Nelson
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Top Customer Reviews
In fact, as Harris points out, all this is documented, and researched, and is a deeply shameful part of France's history. Except that what is even more worrying and shameful is that large scale cover-ups, the concept of obeying orders without question, systems protecting their own despite betraying principles of justice, and inherent racism are not endemic flaws peculiar to late nineteenth and early twentieth century France
The infamous Dreyfus affair involved a Jewish army officer, Alfred Dreyfus, who was convicted of spying for Germany, in 1895. There was certainly a spy within the French army, a man who was violent, untrustworthy, and with gambling debts and a mistress as well as a wife to support. But that man was not Alfred Dreyfus. Dreyfus was a loyal and conscientious, if not particularly likeable, officer. The question which must be asked is - was Dreyfus not particularly likeable, or was he not particularly likeable because he was Jewish - anti-Semitism was deeply entrenched in society. A culture of what we have learned to define as Institutional Racism was certainly present - but not just within Institutions
Dreyfus was convicted because as a Jew he was the automatic one to suspect, even though, right from the start, the evidence was circumstantial, and largely turning on evidence from a graphologist.Read more ›
It is the narrative of the Grand Drama,political,military and human that took place in France between the late 19th and the early 20th Centuries,the Dreyfus affair.
All main characters of the novel are real historical persons.The wrongly accused as a German spy Major Dreyfus a French Officer and an Alsatian Jew, a model of stoicism,a man of professional and family values,portrayed superbly by the Author as History delivered him to posterity,a man of schoolmasterish appearance and enormous inner strength who suffered his own Calvary because of the prejudice that haunts his Race, before his exoneration .
The principal character, Colonel Picquart,an Alsatian himself narrates the story in the first person.He is the new Head of the Statistical Section which is the front for the French Army's counterespionage team.He knew the Dreyfus affair from the beginning but did not initially challenged it.He is the subject of a superbly drawn psychological and physical portrait by the Author,he is so vividly described by Harris as he really was that one feels that knows him.
Picquart ,while no Saint and with the limitations of his profession and his social class,is a man of integrity,intelligence and dogged determination as well as a crafty bureaucratic fighter that knows the system well.Read more ›
This book is set in France at the turn of the 20th century. It is based on a true story where Alfred Dreyfuss, an officer in the French army is accused, tried and found guilty of being a spy. Some years later Georges Picquart, an officer involved in the case, finds evidence that this may not be the case. This simple premise hides a book which is more than absorbing.
Harris writing has the ability to draw you into the story and transport you to the places of which he is speaking. I could hear the stomping of the horses feet, smell 19th Century Paris in the summer and felt like I was best friends with the characters. The characters are exquisitely drawn and each, whether bad or good, felt like real people. It was obvious a lot of work had gone into the research for this book.
Throughout the book Harris had me in the palm of his hand. The storyline is enthralling and urged me to keep reading. The twists and turns had me on a roller coaster ride of emotions. I genuinely cared about all of the characters and what happened to them. That was the case for all the characters even if I was urging them to get their just deserts. These are the signs of a good book and this one is more than good, it is outstanding. It is some time since I have read a book which absorbed me so completely. This is a definite highly recommended.
I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in return for a fair and honest review. My review is based on my reading, and enjoyment, of the book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Wonderful read,a page turner with all the fabulous mix of politics, suspense and history enveloping you.Published 15 hours ago by Margaret McCulloch
A fun way to tell a 'based on real live events' story. The author kept a nice balance between reminding you the story is set in late 1800s France without letting awkward historical... Read morePublished 1 day ago by Amazon Customer
Sometimes historical novels are to detailed. This book was just right. Truly a great story about an amazing man. The book reads like a spy novel. Nicely written.Published 3 days ago by Amazon Customer
A great story for lover's of historical fiction (more the former than the latter, so even better); well paced with plenty of the detail of the times (without getting bogged down in... Read morePublished 4 days ago by kevincastner
Great account of the Dreyfus affair that took place at the end of the 19th century. Very well researched, great storyline, highly recommend !Published 6 days ago by Pekka Karu
Seemed like a lot of gossip. Would have preferred more spying details.Published 6 days ago by N. Holguin
The word "terrific" should say it all. I learned so much from reading the novel. Mireover, I should get royalties because I have recommended it to so many people.Published 7 days ago by Zoe