Customer Reviews


252 Reviews
5 star:
 (123)
4 star:
 (79)
3 star:
 (26)
2 star:
 (17)
1 star:
 (7)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


87 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fatherland is Chilling, Thrilling Look at What-If
Berlin, 1964.
20 years have passed since Germany's victory over the Allies in World War II. Adolf Hitler has been in power for 31 years, his 75th birthday nears, and a summit meeting between the Fuhrer and President Kennedy has been announced.

This is the intriguing scenario presented by British journalist-novelist Robert Harris in his first novel,...
Published on June 8, 2003 by Alex Diaz-Granados

versus
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Credit where credit is due
Not a bad read at all. "Fatherland", at first, reminded me of Orwell's "1984", Winston Smith and Xavier March are men who seem similar in attitude. Both are hard working, intelligent fellows who have a nagging sense of doubt in their minds about the society in which they live.
"Fatherland" is all about a conspiracy which is slowly...
Published on May 1, 2000 by Mr. D. J. Walford


‹ Previous | 1 226 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

87 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fatherland is Chilling, Thrilling Look at What-If, June 8, 2003
This review is from: Fatherland (Mass Market Paperback)
Berlin, 1964.
20 years have passed since Germany's victory over the Allies in World War II. Adolf Hitler has been in power for 31 years, his 75th birthday nears, and a summit meeting between the Fuhrer and President Kennedy has been announced.

This is the intriguing scenario presented by British journalist-novelist Robert Harris in his first novel, Fatherland.

Harris' novel, unlike Peter Tsouras' Disaster at D-Day: The Germans Defeat the Allies, June 1944, doesn't offer us a very detailed "alternative history" of the Second World War, which perhaps would have been the easy way out for a lesser writer. Instead, Harris smartly teases us with little glimpses at how Germany could have won the war while still losing its collective soul.

Fatherland's plot revolves around Xavier March, a former U-boat skipper who has joined the German police, which has been under SS control since the mid-1930s. On a rainy April morning, March has been called to investigate what seems to be a routine incident: a corpse has been found in the Havel River near the area where high Nazi party officials have their mansions.

Of course, if you have read political-police thrillers such as Gorky Park or Archangel, you know there will be nothing routine about this investigation. For this corpse's identity is none other than Doctor Josef Buhler, one of the earliest Nazi party members and former state secretary in the General Government, the part of Poland directly annexed by the Third Reich during the war. Before long, March (who is not a Nazi party member, just a dogged investigator) will follow Buhler's seemingly routine death down a dark and winding path that will lead him to Germany's darkest and best kept secret of all.

For history buffs, this book is a fascinating look at what a mid-1960s Nazi Germany might have been like. Harris paints a chilling portrait of a country still at war with what remains of the Soviet Union while in a cold war with a nuclear-armed United States. Berlin is imagined as Hitler and his architect Albert Speer would have rebuilt it at war's end (in the frontispiece there is an artist's rendering of Hitler's vision for his capital), and readers will shudder with horror to see how far the Nazis' indoctrination of children extended.

Harris keeps things going at a brisk pace, never boring readers or insulting their intelligence. His fictional characters interact with historical characters (although, of course, their fates ended up differently in real life, thank goodness) in a believable fashion. Of course, this type of novel requires willing suspension of disbelief, but it is well-written and, in the end, eye-opening.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original Masterpiece With Something For Everybody, March 31, 2001
This review is from: Fatherland (Mass Market Paperback)
I was immediately intrigued with the premise behind Robert Harris' novel Fatherland. What would have happened if Hitler's Germany had won World War II? The reader is taken to Berlin, 1964, which has become a sort of Shangra-la for Europe. U.S. President Kennedy has agreed to come to Berlin for a peace summit, and the capital is swarming with tourists and citizens ready to observe the 75th birthday of Hitler. During all this, though, the body of a high-ranking Nazi is washed up on a shore. Detective Xavier March, a former U-boat captain and SS Sturmbannfuhrer, is dispatched to investigate. His investigation uncovers an old conspiracy among high-ranking Nazis. March, who is not the cold, unhuman Nazi that is common in his country, teams up with an American Journalist, Charlotte Maguire, to find proof and escape alive.
There were many good things about this book. Its setting is very realistic and depressing, its characters range from the intrepid March to the evil Globus, a former Concentration Camp commander who is determined to end March's investigation, to Maguire, the journalist who wants the truth. Although I enjoyed the book very much, I would have liked more details on the resolution of the war, but this book will both frighten and delight. I loved this book and think that you will love it too.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Murder mystery, Nazis make a good, not great, weekend read, July 13, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Fatherland (Mass Market Paperback)
Having just returned from Northern and Eastern Europe where I spent time in Berlin and Poland (the setting for "Fatherland"), I was pleased to find this book at a friend's house the other day. And so I plopped down on a lawn chair and read the whole thing, straight through, yesterday afternoon. I fully admit that I am a sucker for techno/action/spy/anything-WWII novels and this was no exception. Harris is a fine enough writer who has come up with a interesting plot that reminds me of some novels I've read involving alternate US civil war outcomes. Of course you have to stretch your imagination a bit, but isn't that the point? I'm sure that those who love the bulk of mass-market novels out today realize that much of what they read is less-than literary genius, but fun nonetheless. Harris' hero, Xavier March, is likeable, yet not loveable and the other characters fill their necessary plot roles as well as any supporting figures in such books. His descrip! ! tion of a 1964, Nazi-ruled, capital of Europe, Berlin is right on (at least as Albert Speer would have had it) and his concentration camp lessons (i.e. detailed descriptions of how Hitler and his cronies came up with and planned the "final solution") are chilling. Throw these elements together with a murder mystery and you've got a most enjoyable book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant concept., November 26, 2001
This review is from: Fatherland (Mass Market Paperback)
Brilliant. No, not the plot, which is certainly above average, but mostly typical of a good suspense thriller. What's brilliant about Robert Harris' "Fatherland" is the concept. The events of this suspense thriller are set in 1964, in post World War II Germany. Nothing unusual so far. Until you realize that Germany has won the war, Europe is dominated by the victorious German reich, and that celebrations are underway for Hitler's 75th birthday. It is this alternate history that makes "Fatherland" a thriller that stands out from the average.
Is it plausible? Harris is well-qualified to write such an alternate history, having written a well-researched non-fiction book on Hitler. In fact the events of "Fatherland" are mostly rooted in history, as Harris notes at the end of the book that many of the characters whose names are used in this novel actually existed, and many of the documents quoted in the text are authentic. The novel centers around the historic Wannsee Conference of 1942, where Hitler's top men met to decide on a permanent solution to the Jewish question: extermination in the horrific gas chambers in places like Auschwitz.
The plot itself is credible and fast moving, although those who are offended by vulgar language, blasphemy and immorality will find these occurring rather too frequently. Xavier March is a criminal investigator who is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery around the body of an old man found floating in a lake outside Berlin. His investigation leads him to discover a series of deaths of high ranking officials. Together with Charlotte Maguire, an American journalist, he uncovers the chilling truth and the heart of the dark conspiracy behind these deaths. But can March and Maguire escape the German reich with a story about a secret so horrible that Hitler's men have done everything possible to remove all trace of? And if they are caught, can they withstand the torture that is sure to follow?
The concept of a political cover-up, government conspiracy in at the highest level, and those threatening to expose it being silenced with death, is not a new concept. But by dressing this concept in new garments of an alternate history, Harris has created a novel that surpasses the average suspense thriller. The alternate history is in many respects fictional, but at its core it is about a horrible reality that is just as shocking today as it was when it was conceived in 1942. In producing "Fatherland", Harris has fathered a novel with a concept so brilliant, that the chilling non-fiction aspects of its story become all the more shocking. And that's why this is a novel not worth missing.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sophisticated thriller set in a post-war Nazi Europe, January 15, 2004
This review is from: Fatherland (Mass Market Paperback)
In 1964, winning World War II and achieving domination over all but the United States, the Nazi's Thousand-Year Reich prepares to celebrate Der Fuhrer's 75th birthday. But it's business as usual for SS Detective Xavier March, a U-Boat vet turned police detective. With the holiday looming, March investigates a suspicious death seemingly unconnected with the alternate history of 1964 in which, Deutchland Uber Alles. But March's experiences prowling the North Atlantic have molded him into a natural hunter, and he refuses subtle (and not so) hints to leave the case alone. While a patriot in SS Black, March's instinct's foster suspicions that all was never right in the Reich - over the seeming perpetual resistance to German rule in the occupied and distant East, how knowledgeable German doctors are on the science of how people dies, and mostly (though also most quietly) on the subject of those missing Jews. Estranged from his wife and son, March is in no mood to file things away. With the help of a visiting journalist (a beautiful and plucky American, of course), March's investigation takes him to darkened archives and the offices of high ranking Nazis very much alive in a fully drawn and frightfully convincing world.
"Fatherland" excels not only because of what it does, but what it doesn't. The author resists the temptation to spell out exactly how the Nazis came to win the war, preferring instead to drop tantalizing hints (The Nazis responded to Hiroshima by launching V-3 at NY - thus keeping America out of the war; U-Boats are now nuclear powered, hinting that Dr. Heisenberg finally got it right; remaining nations outside of the Reich's control are happy to lay blame for genocide firmly on the wartime Soviet regime - renowned as it is for its brutality). The biggest twist is that while established history remains a mystery, the mystery on March's agenda quickly becomes no mystery at all - to us: the corpse (ironically identified as a "founding father" when his sole criminal record reveals an arrest in 1922 in a Munich beer hall) is found outside a converted schoolhouse on the Wansee. When the dead man's connection to that location is linked to a meeting there of high-ranking Nazis in early 1942, historically adept readers will realize that March is on the verge of discovering the Reich's guilt for a far larger crime - the crime of the century. March remains appropriately dim, creating one of the finest examples of deductive police work through investigation - Harris refuses to allow the slightest intrusion of our history into his hero's thinking. Instead, March tracks down the other famed Nazis who met suspicious ends and follows a trail that leads him to a Swiss bank. I'm not sure whether the controversy over Swiss banks was as well known when "Fatherland" debuted, in either case, Harris' treatment seems ironic, if not prescient: the Swiss accounts in Harriss's book weren't left behind by the Nazis' victims, but by disloyal Germans possessed by the insane fear that (huh!) Germany might lose the war.
Harris also avoids the urge to recreate the dark gods of the Reich simply by dropping names (Goering, Goebbels, Himmler and most of the Discovery Channel's usual suspects are long gone.) Albert Speer doesn't appear, but the author's drawing of undivided Berlin - monumental and insecure - gives the architect more character than a few lines of dumb dialog. Heydrich (the guy killed by Partisans) appears, but only to add more mystery - March is never sure if Heydrich is actually helping him out of fear of joining the other mysteriously dead Nazis, or marking him for death.
Best of all are the people who populate the vibrant Thousand-year Reich. No revisionist or apologist, Harris nevertheless avoids simple villainy for the inhabitants of the Reich of 1964 - his Germans seem not slightly cowed by fear of their regime yet honestly ignorant of their victims' fate. While a U-Boat ace in 1943, March wore sock not knowing that they were sewn with hair from dead Jews. In the 1990's, we're kept warm with our own complacency on history, and a sense of its immutability (we've watched too many documentaries and war movies to even consider the possibility of Nazi victory). Harris tells us otherwise!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strength Through Joylessness, June 11, 2006
This review is from: Fatherland (Mass Market Paperback)
This novel by Robert Harris is a masterpiece on many different levels - historical fiction, mystery, detective story, political thriller, and alternate history. In this tale, the Nazis were victorious in World War II and now control most of Europe, and dominate the political realities of the Western powers. Also, the Nazis have managed to keep the Holocaust and the Final Solution secret, while building their worshipful cult-of-personality society. In 1964, a cynical, world-weary detective and a subversive American journalist stumble onto a case in which all the top officials who formulated the Final Solution are getting whacked by operatives. Read the book to find why that's happening and what the potential ramifications are, and how the heroes try to subvert the morally corrupt Nazis. You'll be rewarded with some of the strongest plot construction, and examination of tremendous moral and political issues, that you're likely to ever see in historical and alternate historical fiction. There is much more to this stirring book than some tame "what if" exercises, because Harris deftly uses an alternate history to explore the true evils and horrors of real history. [~doomsdayer520~]
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Plot and Setting Make for a Modern Classic, July 6, 2000
This review is from: Fatherland (Mass Market Paperback)
Robert Harris has done something incredible with "Fatherland." He has seamlessly blended the intriguing murder mystery, which is always more interesting when the investigator must battle an oppressive, secretive government to solve the case, and the fantasy of a different world that asks the question "what if?" about Hitler and World War II.
The first accomplishment recalls Cold War mysterys by John Le Carre and Martin Cruz Smith, and Harris controls the plot as well as either of them. His detective's search through the past for the truth has enough plot twists and interesting characters to keep the reader turning the pages, but not so many that the book is impossible to understand. Of course, the main character is the investigator himself, Xavier Marks, and his personality must hold the reader's attention and win his or her sympathy to make a good book. Marks does both of these thanks to Harris's superb development. Marks is a much better charcter than Smith's Arkady Renko if Renko had only one book of development. That Harris can create such a strong person in just one novel is an accomplishment in itself. The other driving forse behind the novel, though, is the strong development of setting along with plot. Set in 1960's Berlin after the Nazis won WWII, the story propels itself by inspiring curiosity in its readers. Harris avoids the usually slow beginning of many mysteries by allowing the alternate world of his Berlin carry the story through the set-up of the mystery itself. Orwell's "1984" obviously comes to mind, but Harris's portrayal of Germany is completely different from Orwell's England. It serves an an incredibly interesting backdrop to the tale, but is, nevertheless, still just a backdrop. Orwell's England was the reason for and subject of his book, while Harris's book gives his mystery reason, and allows for him to focus on his subject that much more clearly. This book is a modern classic, one of the best books written in the 1990's, not just in the mystery and espionage genre, but in all of literature.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Credit where credit is due, May 1, 2000
By 
Mr. D. J. Walford (Lancashire, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Fatherland (Mass Market Paperback)
Not a bad read at all. "Fatherland", at first, reminded me of Orwell's "1984", Winston Smith and Xavier March are men who seem similar in attitude. Both are hard working, intelligent fellows who have a nagging sense of doubt in their minds about the society in which they live.
"Fatherland" is all about a conspiracy which is slowly uncovered by March after he discovers a body on what appears to be a usual case. He later goes on to discover that it is the body of a, once, leading Nazi official, one who attended the mysterious Wannsee Conference in January 1942.
It is a little predictable in style and reminds me of 1984, i.e. divorced man in his forty's who wins the women he initially suspected of being his enemy, whilst slowly uncovering the truth of the society in which he lives. Whilst this book may seem a little predictable, I do recommend Harris's work, what I found impressive about "Fatherland" is that Harris uses actual figures from Nazi history, such as Artur Nebe, and Reinhard Heydrich, even though they died in the war. This appealed to me as it incorporated historical people and documents as well.
I recommend "Fatherland" and believe that both this and "1984" will fit together well on your bookshelf.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "You throw food to the beast in man.", May 12, 2005
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Fatherland (Mass Market Paperback)
Fatherland is an absolutely brilliant novel and one of the most exciting and thought-provoking books I have every read. If this sounds like gushy over-praise, please trust me; it isn't. This book simply fires on all cylinders. If you are looking for a thrilling, nail-biter that will keep you turning pages past you bedtime, this is it. If you are looking for a novel with rich characters that will move you in their believability, here it is. If you are looking for a work that will fire up your intellect, order this book now. You will not be disappointed. Superbly conceived mystery? You got it. All rendered at a pitch-perfect pace that doesn't drag for a single paragraph.

Harris is simply a great writer. I don't mean a good thriller writer (though that would certainly be enough); I mean he is a writer that has that little bit extra that makes you remember his work years later. The conception and sweep of this novel is extraordinary. The time frame for the work is the early sixties. Germany has won WWII, and American President Kennedy is scheduled to meet Adolph Hitler at a summit in Berlin to discuss a détente between the two nations. Against this backdrop, Berlin detective, Xavier March, is called in to investigate a death. What happens after that unfolds in ever darkening layers of danger. March begins to move through the bleak, nightmare world of Berlin, where massive, Teutonic architecture towers over the streets and records are kept of skull shapes to insure racial purity.

I don't want to give away too much. This is the kind of work a reader should discover for themselves. When I read the back jacket of this paperback, which describes a "disillusioned but talented investigator" solving a mystery with the help of a "beautiful American journalist," it sounded slightly hackneyed, but it was just a case of some publicity genius at Ballintine underselling both the book's readership and the author. Xavier March is one of the most vivid, heroic, and memorable characters I've come across in fiction. By the end of the book, I was right there with him, pulling for him so hard it made my teeth ache. As for "Charlie" Maguire, her physical appearance is the last thing that comes to mind. What I remember is her quick temper, her stubbornness, and the brave way she manages to control her growing fear as she comes to realize she is onto much more than a good story. Her terror is palpable, and so is her strength. "I hated you on sight," she tells Detective March at one point, and means it. Her growing love for this rigid, Nazi detective, and his need for her, is done in expert, subtle strokes. By the end of the novel, and after considering it for a bit, I realized I had just read one of the most moving love stories in memory.

I found this book, much to my surprise, profound. You will, too. -Mykal Banta
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Alternate History, August 20, 2007
By 
S. (San Antonio, TX, United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Fatherland: A Novel (Paperback)
"Fatherland" is the second novel by Robert Harris that I have read, and it did not dissapoint. Well written and indeed well imagined, Fatherland is a novel about victorius Nazi Germany, and the life in Europe, as well as Germany itself, had Hitler won the war.

Seen from the perspective of a Kriminalpolizei's Major Xavier March, Germany of the 1960's is a cold, unwelcoming police state, in which racism and nationalism persist, where strange Nazi laws rule the land, and in which many countries of today do not exist, swallowed by Hitler's megalomania. Gone are the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine, Latvia and many other countries, while the countries that survived are but sattelites of the German Reich. It is in this state that Stuermbahnfuehrer (Major) March investigates an apparent suicide of a prominent member of the Nazi Party.

March's investigation is interrupted by an SS General, who trumps all the attempts that March makes, making the Major that much more interested in the case. As the case unfolds, March sees that the entire Reich is at stake. March teams up with an American journalist, following a trail of suicides and accidental deaths of all Party members who could impede the upcoming peace talks between Hitler and the American President, Joseph P. Kennedy.

Harris delivered a well written novel, a novel of "what it could have been." It is difficult to write alternate history, but Harris seems to do it seamlessly and effortlessly. A good, entertaining read, based on historical fact, "Fatherland" is another success from an accomplished author.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 226 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Fatherland
Fatherland by Robert Harris (Hardcover - May 26, 1992)
Used & New from: $0.01
Add to wishlist See buying options
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.