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Savarona

4.1 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1413714463
ISBN-10: 1413714463
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Editorial Reviews

Review

The rhythm of life overseas, the excitement and ennui... Hart has a rare gift... I warmly recommend this novel. -- Foreign Service Journal, September, 2004
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: PublishAmerica (April 5, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1413714463
  • ISBN-13: 978-1413714463
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,546,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

The CIA justifiably provides most of the heroes (and villains!) for the international thriller genre, but who says America's diplomats can't join in the fun? In this lively, engaging, and highly plausible novel, Mr. Hart shows that life is not just one endless cocktail party for the men and women who staff U.S. embassies around the world. Protagonist George McCall already has more than enough personal and professional problems to deal with when he is unwillingly drawn into a web of intrigue involving Kurdish terrorists, the CIA (yes, they're here, too!), powerful U.S. congressmen, and his all-too-human Turkish and American colleagues from the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Like any good Hitchcock hero, McCall is utterly overwhelmed at first, but slowly discovers hidden reserves of courage and cunning to rise to the challenge. Mr. Hart employs several unusual narrative perspectives to spin a story that could have been plucked from yesterday's (or tomorrow's) headlines. Finally, Hart draws on his own experiences as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer to paint a vivid, "warts and all" portrait of America's diplomats at work overseas, one instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever worked in an embassy or consulate.
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There has been a lot of talk about this book -- mostly its perspective on mental illness and vivid portrayal of exotic Istanbul. But what interested me most was the way "Savarona" casually peeled back the skin of the U.S. Foreign Service for an unflinching, inside look. This is as much an expose' as it is a literary thriller. Although J. Patrick Hart (the pseudonym of a real diplomat who obviously wants to stay anonymous) insists it's all fiction, somehow I have my doubts -- every word and mannerism just rings too true. I would have given "Savarona" the full five stars if not for the somewhat confusing first few chapters. Hart's use of multiple narrative perspectives is a challenge at first, but once you figure it out the book really hums. I realize this novel has already found a wider audience, but for those searching specifically for the Great Foreign Service Novel, search no more.
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In a negative review of one Foreign Service-themed novel a few years back, I wrote that the search for the great Foreign Service novel goes on. Well, I agree with Morris - if SAVARONA isn't the great Foreign Service novel, it comes very close.

J. Patrick Hart is a fellow FSO and a compelling writer -- and his novel gets things right. His character Winston Craine is the classic dead-end loser, passed from one unlucky post to another. At the other end of the spectrum, the Consul General and the Ambassador -- like the best senior career FSOs and the best political appointees -- are capable, tough, and not ones to suffer fools gladly. In the middle: our man George, his peers, and his non-uncommon angst - unsure why he has chosen this life, but unable to give it up. The visa process (described accurately, at least for the 1990s), the troubles American travelers get into overseas, the relationship between transient FSOs and permanent local employees (FSNs), the situation of being dropped into an alien culture, saddled with responsibility and having to work with peers one knows only superficially - it's all true. I recognized a lot in these pages from my years with the State Department.

This is also a great story about Turkey, without clichés - indeed, on the first page, Hart sets up a pseudo-profound cliché, then mocks it. Whether it's Ataturk, Turkey's public image, the multiple levels in Turkish society, the grandeur of Aya Sofia, the good, the nasty, or the burden of "too much history," Hart creates a deep and complex portrait of the country. He captures the rhythm of Istanbul, that greatest of cities, and gives it to the reader bit by bit, integrated into the story.
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The enthusiastic reviews have got it right about "Savarona". But there is this to be said for the lone dissenter. "Savarona" may not be every reader's cup of chi. Devotees of, in particular, drugstore thrillers and Harlequin Romances may well find the prose style, characterizations and plotline of this novel "mediocre" in comparison with their customary fare.

On the other hand, readers whose comfort level embraces Graham Green and John le Carré as readily as Tom Clancy and Nora Roberts are quite likely to find "Savarona" a stylistically enjoyable -and profitable - experience.

The author's cold-eyed, insider's depiction of diplomatic life, Turkey's turbulence, and the non-glamorous conduct of foreign affairs in the age of terrorism is the genuine picture rarely available to non- practitioners. But though the richness of unsentimental knowledge he shares is undistorted by his obvious affection for the country, its people and language, there is clearly a wealth of tenderness beneath his honesty. He has obviously made it his business to get to know all three very well indeed.

Well-drawn characters and the decidedly un-Hollywood plausibility of its exploration of domestic terrorism drive the story. So the reader painlessly absorbs rich insights into the contemporary turmoil swirling around Kurdish separatism and radical Islamism, against the conflicted backdrop of the bloody legacy of the Ottoman Empire and the secularist legacy of modern Turkey's foundation.

That said, however, its emphasis on the inner self differentiates the novel from the typical international thriller and inclines the author toward the orbit of the genre's heavy-hitters.
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