Saturday, 24 May 2008


AUTHOR: Robert Harris


DATE READ: May 2008

NOTES: Fatherland is set in Germany in the 1960s – but this is a Germany that won the war and changed the face of Europe. Xavier March is a policeman – honest but increasingly cynical about the regime – who begins to investigate the deaths of some high ranking officials. He meets up with a young American woman and together they try to unravel the trail of corruption and lies. But soon he is being sought by the Gestapo and he soon realises that the lives of both Charlotte and himself are in serious danger.

This is an extremely well written thriller that is made all the more interesting by its imaginary setting. Much of the detail rings true – the architecture, the culture, relations with the rest of Europe and with the United States. One minor problem I had was the way in which the horrors of the regime begin to be made clear – although they may have been relevations to March they were not new to the reader.

There are also some references to how much people actually knew about the atrocities committed by the Nazis. There is a subtle difference between not knowing something and choosing not to know. Harris could have explored this more deeply.

Nonetheless a great read and a thought provoking book.

Sunday, 18 May 2008


AUTHOR: Fyodor Dostoyevsky


DATE READ: May 2008

NOTES: Having read and loved Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov I started this book very enthusiastically. Prince Myshkin is portrayed as an innocent, child-like Christ figure – the epitome of all that is good. Rogozhin is the antithesis and is described as dark and his actions are the opposite of the prince’s. The central premise seems to be whether an innocent and good person can survive in a cruel and evil society.

While there were flashes of brilliance and some very exciting “set pieces” (eg when Nastasya throws the parcel of money on the fire) I was somewhat disappointed on the whole. It was really much too long and rambling and (dare I say) rather tedious. Some of the characters were interesting – Myshkin, General Ivolgin, Nastasya – but not enough to redeem the book overall. There were simply too many people who seemed to have no real work to do who had lots of time to sit around gossiping. No wonder they had a revolution!