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Customer Review

It's hard to know exactly what to call this: thriller, love story, historical novel, tragedy... This is the story of Robert, a Jewish pied noir (a derogatory term used to refer to the non-French Mediterranean people invited to help colonize French Algeria) who, having served as a demolition expert in the French Foreign Legion in the losing war in Vietnam is sent back to Algeria to fight the FLN independence movement. The book starts in 1962 after his unit's desertion to the ranks of the OAS, the underground army determined not to retain Algeria as a French colony, regardless of the wishes of French politicians. (An OAS assassination attempt on Charles DeGaulle was the basis for the book and movie, The Day of the Jackal.) The first third of the book is written from the perspective of Marie, a young woman who has fallen in love with Robert, who is meanwhile engaged in a daily war of terror and attrition in Algiers. Once you read the author's capsule history in the prologue, it's gripping and absorbing stuff--although it loses a bit in being told through another's eyes.
The second part part shifts to Marseilles, and follows Robert as he flees the OAS and waits for his love to follow him. The is written from the perspective of JoJo, his longtime comrade and OAS commander, and is tautly effective as it is clear they will never let him simply leave. The final third is written from Robert's own perspective, as he is forced to join his former comrades to fight as a mercenary in the Belgian Congo. This is the least effective portion, as the hold JoJo has over him becomes more and more tenuous and implausible. The tragic ending is of little surprise and the coda (from the lover's perspective) is just a touch sappy. The book is clearly attempting to do a lot of things and cover a lot of themes at once, and although successful on an individual level in many of these, it also failed to fully come together for me. This is partly die to the use of three narrators with essential the same voice, but more so the ambiguous nature of Robert and JoJo's relationship. I suspect that unless one has an interest in Algerian history (as I do), the book will fail to satisfy on plot and writing alone.
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Product Details

3.0 out of 5 stars
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