Eye of the Needle is the first book Follett wrote that became succussful and established him as a great writer, especially of historical, WWII novels. Now, after several years and several novels, Eye of the Needle holds up well. It tells the story of the Allies' deception at D-Day. The Allies convinced Germany the attack would be at Calais, not at Normandy. How did they do this? Follett writes about it in this novel. Germany's success in spying on the Allies has been mostly a failure, but one spy has mananged to avoid authorities and also found out an incredible truth: The plan to attack at Calais is one big fabrication. How will he get the info to Germany. The Germans won't trust a radio transmission because too many agents have been turned by the British. This spy, the Needle, has to get photographs to Germany.
The Needle is the main character, and we follow him as he travels across the country always one step ahead of the authorities. The story also follows the British men in MI5 trying to track the Needle. These men are civillians pressed into duty for their country and do an admirable job. Another part of the story is that of David and Lucy Rose. On their wedding night and the day before David is supposed to report for duty, he is involved in a car wreck that takes both of his legs. He and Lucy move to Storm Island and become recluses from society. David also withdrawals from Lucy which leaves her desparate for human interaction. Lucy is a strong character, but she doesn't become a part of the story until the later.
This Follett novel is very good and in it you see what made him so successful. Still, it is not one of his bests, but definitely a must read.
on April 22, 2012
Eye of the Needle was Ken Follett's breakout novel, and still a favorite among his readers who often criticize his later works as being formulaic, predictable, lacking character development, etc. This is strange, as those books are generally far superior to this one in those very respects.
Of all the Follett novels I've read so far, this had by far the flattest characters. You basically learn everything you need to know about them in the first few pages, after which Follett develops them very little. The only real development later in the book is the Needle character's falling in love with the heroine, which is actually out of character for him and not adequately explained.
Eye of the Needle was also easily Follett's most formulaic novel of those I've read. For instance, it follows the classic formula of WWII thrillers of inserting a scene with Churchill expressing how the entire balance of the war hangs on the situation in the story, or with Hitler saying much the same. Follett does both...repeatedly. After several scenes of Hitler informing his council that if the Needle fails they will lose the war, and Churchill informing British intelligence officials that if they fail to STOP the Needle THEY will lose, I was just thinking, "Okay, I GET it already." Presumably, this is done to raise the stakes---but let's face it, we all already know how the war turned out anyway, don't we? So this rather backfired, and by the end I really couldn't have cared less about the supposed consequences for the war effort, and only wanted to know what the heroine's fate would be, despite Follett's apparent insecurities that that wouldn't be enough to carry the novel.
All that said, the characters, though a bit thinly drawn, were fairly interesting, and the basic story, though somewhat overblown, was pretty good. So on the whole, I'd say it might be worth reading, but I'd recommend giving some of his later stuff a chance over this. Three and a half stars.
on February 24, 2013
Since I love Follett's historical epics (The Pillars of the Earth, Fall of Giants, etc) so much and I love thrillers, I figured I should try one of the types of books that originally made him famous.
After being disappointed by the last WWII thriller I read (Simon Tolkien's Orders from Berlin), Eye of the Needle was what I'd been looking for! The plot centers around a fictional (but relatively probable) "what-if" scenario involving the lead-up to the Normandy invasion, which gave the book its historical depth. It's also a fantastic page turner - with spies, MI5, murder, police work, and a side love story as well.
My one small criticism is that I thought the Epilogue was contrived and unnecessary to the story - but you can just stop reading when the regular book ends, so it doesn't end up doing much harm.
For more reviews, check out my blog, Sarah's Book Shelves.
on March 9, 2012
Ken Follett's THE EYE OF THE NEEDLE is such a compelling well-written story, that it seems a shame to mention the one weak spot in it, which involves an unbelievable plot twist.
But first, I should like to tell you something about it. The title refers to a German spy who was working behind British lines during the second world war. His nickname is Die Nadel, or the needle, because he is about the only spy that the Germans have working for them who is not a complete amateur.
This seems hard to believe, until one realizes that when the Abwehr (German secret intelligence) was re-organized in 1938 by the head of the agency, Admiral Canaris, he took care to surround himself with hand-picked men who were not members of the Nazi Party. The reason? So that he could engage in various plots to assassinate Hitler.
Thus, Follett's character Die Nadel, the brilliant and ruthless Prussian aristocrat fulminates against the amateur blunderings of his compatriots sent over to Britain to do some mischief on behalf of the Nazis.
Which brings me to the problem with this wonderfully taut novel. Why in the world, does Die Nadel act as he does just before the end of the novel? (I don't want to be more specific so as not to spoil it for future readers). It seemed so unmotivated, and it spoiled the ending for me. Four and a half stars.
on May 3, 2013
I remember when I first read this book, back over 30 years ago. A friend loaned me the book, so I wanted to like it. But I found the "rhythm" of the writing hard to bear. To me there seemed to be such a predictable beat to the first chapter that I barely made it through. Then Faber interacted with his landlady, and I was hooked!
This is a gem of a spy novel, based on actual events (and the further these events recede into history, the more this should be appreciated), and pitch-perfect in character development. The reader becomes engrossed in Faber's story, then is introduced to Lucy's. It won't be a surprise to many that these two are going to run across each other, but the tale of how they get there, and what transpires along the way, set against the backdrop of WWII England, is simply engrossing. I couldn't even guess how many times I've re-read this, but each time I do, Follett just drags me right in. This is a book I will NEVER be without (so glad I scooped it up for my Kindle!).
on April 22, 2015
Your reviewer first read this book way back in 1980! I recently reread the book which hold up well and is a gem of masterful suspense by the master Ken Follett. The plot concerns the efforts of the brilliant Nazi spy known as the Needle (for his affinity for murdering his enemies with a sharp knife). The Needle has discovered the Allies ruse to persuade the Nazis that the main invasion on the continent of Europe in 1944 will be in the Pas de Calais region of France rather than in Normandy. The Needle discovers the fake barracks and air fields in East Anglia where Patton s 3rd Army is falsely being prepared for the massive invasion. Romance is provided by a young woman living on a desolate Scottish island who becomes involved with the dangerous but brilliant spy. Ken Follett has moved into the realm of historical fiction but this early spy thriller hits the spot for readers wanting a page turner. Well researched and written. Follett knows how to write a good story!
on October 23, 2015
I really enjoyed reading Eye of the Needle.. It held my interest and being a historical novel also made me more aware of the happenings in not only Europe but America building up to, during and at the end of WW1. The story being told from the view of people from different countries gives insight to what probably must have felt and agonized over.. The difference in classes and the way the workers from all countries were treated.. I found myself pulled along, cheering for some, wanting to help over throw others.. I cheered, I agonized and I shed a tear as peoples lives were on one hand torn apart, yet others grew out of the rubble.. Well done Ken Follett, well done.. now off the read the next one.
on August 23, 2014
I got this after having read it years ago recalling it as an exciting read. I thoroughly enjoyed this WWII spy novel enormously. As usual with Follett's novels, it is very well researched and vividly described. I recommend this highly for those looking for a great read in this genre.
on March 24, 2014
Henry Faber appears to be a nondescript Englishman, a railway clerk who takes lodging in a widow's house. That is a guise for he is an aristocratic German spy charged with determining whether the Allies will make their assault on occupied France by landing at Calais, where General Patton appears to be massing troops and war materiel. Or will the landing, long anticipated, be on the beaches of Normandy. Faber, who uses other aliases,is a professional, killing as needed, preferably with a stiletto. Contrary to general conviction among his military heads, Hitler believes the attack will be in Normandy, but, trusting his top spy, will defer to his findings.
After he commits several murders, the team at M15, led by a widowed professor of medieval history drafted into service by his uncle, and an investigator pulled in from Scotland Yard, becomes aware of Faber, but cannot find him. The man is smart, resourceful, cautious and cunning. But the investigators, whatever their level of expertise, are secondary characters. The real action, the suspense, the drama, takes place in a desolate, lonely spot on the Scottish coast.
In attempting to meet up with a U-Boat in the North Sea, Faber steals a fishing trawler, but a terrible storm finds him shipwrecked on a strip of Scottish land called appropriately, Storm Island. He appears at the door, sick and confused, of a couple, David and Lucy Rose. Their marriage is loveless. David lost his legs in a traffic accident immediately after their wedding, and is emotionally barren, and unwilling, although not unable, to make love to his wife. David feels diminished, his training as a flyer in the war effort ended as a result of his crippling injuries. Now, he is only a sheep farmer. They have a toddler son, Jo, the result of Lucy becoming pregnant a week before they were wed. Although she cannot love this rather strange, mysterious man who has entered her home, an affair commences immediately. David, physically strong in the upper body, easily becomes aware of it. At the same time, events occur which make it clear that Lucy Rose is the only person who stands between this dangerous and perceptive Nazi spy, and the Allies plan for invasion.
Eye Of the Needle is a true thriller, containing outstanding plot, excellent writing, and a pace which increases mightily as the final confrontation begins to unravel at breakneck speed. Undoubtedly, Ken Follett gave us here one of the great spy novels of all time, an absolute must for devotees of the genre, and anybody else who appreciates great fiction.
on February 20, 2016
This was my first Ken Follett novel, and I was not disappointed. It was very suspenseful with lots of twists and turns. His attention to the historical detail is incredible. It really draws you into the story and helps bring the characters to life. If you like thrillers and WWII history, check out this book.