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Midnight in Europe: A Novel Hardcover – June 3, 2014
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*Starred Review* In 1937, the lights were going out in Europe, but jackbooted blackness had not quite swept the Continent. Through multiple novels, Furst has illuminated moments of reluctant courage and desperate love in a world teetering on the edge of destruction. He does so again here, and, as always, he does it exquisitely. We’ve met Furst’s unwilling heroes before, typically in Paris, as they bask in the City of Light while turning away from the chaos in their homeland, whether Poland, Italy, or Germany. This time it’s Spain, where a doomed war is already raging. Spanish émigré Christián Ferrar is a successful lawyer at an international firm, juggling his time between Paris and New York and happy to be far from the troubles in Spain. Yet, when he is approached to aid those supplying the Republican troops with arms, he is surprised to find himself complying. And so begins another tale of clandestine operations in which civilians step up, not out of idealism but out of the realization that history affords them no other choice. Furst is a master of mood, but, above all, he is able to show how the most personal of emotions—love, especially—drives the actions of men and women caught in a time of peril. --Bill Ott
Praise for Midnight in Europe
“Elegant, gripping . . . [Furst] remains at the top of his game.”—The New York Times
“Suspenseful and sophisticated . . . No espionage author, it seems, is better at summoning the shifting moods and emotional atmosphere of Europe before the start of World War II than Alan Furst.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Endlessly compelling . . . Furst delivers an observant, sexy, and thrilling tale set in the outskirts of World War II. In Furst’s hands, Paris once again comes alive with intrigue.”—Erik Larson
“Too much fun to put down . . . [Furst is] a master of the atmospheric thriller.”—The Boston Globe
Praise for Alan Furst
“Furst never stops astounding me.”—Tom Hanks
“Furst is the best in the business—the most talented espionage novelist of our generation.”—Vince Flynn
“Page after page is dazzling.”—James Patterson
“Furst writes profoundly realistic books. The brilliant historical flourishes seem to create—or re-create—a world . . . a heartbreaking sense of the vast Homeric epic that was World War II and the smallness of almost every life that was caught up in it.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Though set in a specific place and time, Furst’s books are like Chopin’s nocturnes: timeless, transcendent, universal. One does not so much read them as fall under their spell.”—Los Angeles Times
“Alan Furst’s novels swing a beam into the shadows at the edges of the great events leading to World War II. Readers come knowing he’ll deliver effortless narrative.”—USA Today
“Mesmerizing . . . Mr. Furst is a master at conjuring European scenes and moods during World War II and the fraught years that preceded it.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Alan Furst again shows why he is a grandmaster of the historical espionage genre. . . . It doesn’t get more action-packed and grippingly atmospheric than this.”—The Boston Globe
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That fandom has been gained in a variety of ways. I enjoy his blend of real history and the one he richly imagines. It is blend that by the end seams seamless (was that not a horribly written sentence?). Another thing he does exceedingly well is a few side treats. What I mean is he tosses in a few meaty history tidbits. In this outing, Furst shares the bizarre story of Jacques Lebaudy. Read this book and look that tale up, as well as, the fact that Spanish convents once baked pastry so certain delights were named “saint’s bones”, “nuns’ breasts”, and “nuns’ farts”.
Midnight in Europe deals with The Spanish Civil War, a significant conflict and a proxy for World War Two. Stalin and Hitler pulled strings while the soon-to-be Western Allies twiddled thumbs, hoped for the best, and barely stuck a toe in the water. The civil war is fascinating as is Spain’s role in the bigger conflict. Furst hints that a deal was struck by all parties for Franco’s “neutrality” proving that conspiracies will always abound.
This novel was particularly satisfying due to the main character named Christian Ferrar. He is a Spanish émigré to Paris, a lawyer with deep and wide connection, and a man with ethics and honor that bend so accurately for the times. He favors the left-leaning Republican cause and, when called on, employs his professional and natural talents to acquire arms for that struggling army. The losing brigades needed anything they could get their hands on. As Furst explains, the Republicans were using 49 types of repeating rifle, 41 different automatic weapons and 60 kinds of artillery (I cannot believe there were that many types of big gun throughout Europe).
When Furst deploys Ferrar to Nazi Germany the setting and atmosphere are as surreal as it really must have been. While in cab the character witnesses Berlin Zookeepers goose-stepping because that is what Nazis do. He also nails the ubiquity and ineptitude of Soviet bureaucracy. Neither dictatorship escapes the author’s pen.
I passionately recommend this Furst. He has returned to form and thankfully provides the story of Table 14 (become a fan and you will know what I mean).
I still definitely recommend it for all Alan Furst fans who enjoy pre- WWII "noir" historical fiction--great read until the last few pages!
Mr. Furst has the ability to meld into the fabric of fact, that which could have gone on, what maybe had gone on and with his insight and touches of truth, gives us an enthralling and thoughtful story, to send us safely to bed at nights.
I always read at least two books at a time, just to give me, if not the story, a break, but Alan Furst's books usually get finished first. deservedly. He doesn't put padding into it, just to get the required number of words out onto the pages, when a situation resolves itself, he cuts it off, ends it. Much better than some authors, who keep things bubbling on, killing an extra person off quick, quite unnecessarily, just to enable their story to carry on. Even Furst's romance periods, are rightly put in the right place, but never goes into the details of the act, which usually are not needed. Most of us know whats what.
Thank you Alan Furst, for yet another story, enjoyed and well told.
Most recent customer reviews
I was hooked at beginning.
Somewhat predictable plot but enjoyable with quite good descriptions.