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Fatherland
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 16 December 2009
What would the world be like if Germany had indeed won the Second World War? This is a topic which will be the subject of many alternative history novels for many decades to come as it such an intriguing yet appalling thought.

Robert Harris has created a world in which the USA and Germany are the two remaining superpowers locked in a cold war. Europe has been subdued and is governed by puppet rulers and Russia (or what is left of it) is engaged in a war of attrition with Germany in the Ural Mountains.

The story follows the life of a disillusioned police investigator in Berlin who stumbles into a deadly murder case which eventually reveals the involvement of powerful high ranking Nazi officials and state secrets surrounding the Holocaust.

Imagine a world where you can trust nobody, where every room and phone may be bugged, where photocopiers are strictly controlled and where modern art, alcohol, smoking and even religion are severely frowned upon. If you can imagine such a dreadful world, you are in Robert Harris's Berlin in the sixties.

This book is certainly fascinating, most people think of `what might have been' at one time or another, yet Robert Harris has created a world where Germany actually won the Second World War. However, the most daunting prospect when reading this book is realising that this could have happened. Germany could have won the Second World War in different circumstances, what if they had done?

Read this book and imagine a world where they had!
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102 of 112 people found the following review helpful
on 4 August 2003
I bought this book to read on a train journey home a few years ago. The journey lasted about an hour and a half, but I finally put the book down after reading the final word of the final page at 4am the next morning. Apart from showing my ticket to the conductor I don't think I talked to anyone in between. I was hooked. I even ignored the pretty brunette sat opposite me. Set in 1964, with Hitler having won the war and ruling over a Greater German Reich, a German policeman investigates a supposedly routine death and ends up uncovering a secret that some people will go to any length to protect. A great read that will leave an impact on you years after your first read.
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70 of 79 people found the following review helpful
on 2 August 2010
Follow following advice:-
1. Buy book
2. Open first page
3. Cancel plans to visit pub/work/eat/drink for approximately 2 days
4. Immerse in contents until final page read.
5. Tell your friends that this book is superb
6. Resume boring life...

Say no more. Brilliant.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I have read a few of the author’s books, and enjoyed them immensely (including Pompeii, and An Officer and a Spy). I am waiting eagerly for the long-awaited third book in the Cicero Trilogy to be published, hopefully in 2015.

This book is the author’s first published work, and takes a view of the world as it might have been if Germany had not lost the Second World War. The action in the novel takes place in the week starting 14 April 1964. This is a world where Germany has a huge and influential Reich covering much of Europe; where England, America and other countries fear Germany’s power, and where Russia has been influencing war on the Eastern Front since the 1940s. Germany is belligerent, militaristic and focused on its Social Democrat way of life. Those who conform may prosper; those who do not conform are likely to be denounced and sent out of the lucky country.

Xavier March is an investigator with the Berlin Kriminalpolizei; in the early morning of Tuesday 14 April 1964, he is called upon to attend a scene where a body has been pulled from Lake Havel. When March finds out who the body is, he is intrigued. But when he finds his investigation thwarted, and people less willing to talk to him, he becomes more determined, even against his own interests, to find out what has been going on. What he finds could change the world forever. And there are those who will stop at nothing to make sure he doesn’t get a chance to tell anyone else about it.

This is a great novel; I found nothing jarring or anachronistic in my reading of the world as it could be in this scenario where the outcome of WWII was different; I could ‘recognise’ the world that the author has put before us, and believe in the narrative of his story. March is a character driven by his own ideals, which differ from those he is told to hold in his authoritarian country. He swims against the political and cultural current, trying to uncover the truth. And the story races along at a great pace; there is intrigue, skullduggery and mystery aplenty. Great stuff.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I have read a few of the author’s books, and enjoyed them immensely (including Pompeii, and An Officer and a Spy). I am waiting eagerly for the long-awaited third book in the Cicero Trilogy to be published, hopefully in 2015.

This book is the author’s first published work, and takes a view of the world as it might have been if Germany had not lost the Second World War. The action in the novel takes place in the week starting 14 April 1964. This is a world where Germany has a huge and influential Reich covering much of Europe; where England, America and other countries fear Germany’s power, and where Russia has been influencing war on the Eastern Front since the 1940s. Germany is belligerent, militaristic and focused on its Social Democrat way of life. Those who conform may prosper; those who do not conform are likely to be denounced and sent out of the lucky country.

Xavier March is an investigator with the Berlin Kriminalpolizei; in the early morning of Tuesday 14 April 1964, he is called upon to attend a scene where a body has been pulled from Lake Havel. When March finds out who the body is, he is intrigued. But when he finds his investigation thwarted, and people less willing to talk to him, he becomes more determined, even against his own interests, to find out what has been going on. What he finds could change the world forever. And there are those who will stop at nothing to make sure he doesn’t get a chance to tell anyone else about it.

This is a great novel; I found nothing jarring or anachronistic in my reading of the world as it could be in this scenario where the outcome of WWII was different; I could ‘recognise’ the world that the author has put before us, and believe in the narrative of his story. March is a character driven by his own ideals, which differ from those he is told to hold in his authoritarian country. He swims against the political and cultural current, trying to uncover the truth. And the story races along at a great pace; there is intrigue, skullduggery and mystery aplenty. Great stuff.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
In this book Robert Harris describes vividly a world in which the Nazis won the Second World War and all of their grand schemes came to fruition. His attention to detail is what makes this work so well and feel so real. The Berlin of the sixties he describes is the one set out in Albert Speer, the Nazi architect's plans. The documents Zavi discovers are based on, and in some cases are, actual documents from the time, and the atmosphere and setting are just right because of it.

This is a tautly plotted, suspenseful thriller set in the Berlin of 1964, just as the Americans are due to enter into a period of detente with the Germans under the leadership of Joseph Kennedy. Zavi, the hero, a disillusioned cop with a broken marriage behind him, is called to investigate the death of what turns out to be a previously high ranking Nazi official from the early days of National Socialism. As he gets deeper into the investigation it becomes clear that this death is not as straightforward a matter as he previously suspected, and intrigue piles upon intrigue, resulting in a beautifully complex plot in which it becomes clear that Zavi is on shaky ground and knowing who to trust will make the difference between life and death.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Fatherland is set in April 1964 in a world where the Third Reich won WWII, Germany is now an impressive size and struggling with an ongoing war against Russia. When a senior-ranking official is discovered face-down in a lake just outside of Berlin, Xavier March, a Kripo investigator is called to the scene. When he starts tugging at strings it becomes clear that this is no accident, but who is responsible, what are they trying to cover and how far up does the rot go?

Harris writes with true verve & flair; drawing upon his comprehensive knowledge of WWII history and manages to combine this with a murder mystery that encompasses an entirely believable alternate past. His depictions of the totalitarian government and the political structures are intelligent and insightful, whilst his descriptions of Hitler's Berlin realised are chilling with their Wilhelmine edifices. Harris' characters are also very well fleshed out and I genuinely cared for their fates.

A simply excellent book that will keep you completely enthralled from the outset. Highly recommended!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 August 2014
A fascinating idea to stage a police procedural on the premise that Germany won the war, and a gripping story. For myself, I really wanted more nuance on the social and political situation. Robert Harris does a good job of setting out some of the new reality, seeding 'facts' into the narrative all the way through the book - I just wanted more of them, and particularly on the lives of ordinary people living in Berlin. You do get a very good feeling of the unrelenting anxiety of living in a police state, and the complete absence of trust, which makes for a very charged atmosphere.
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Fatherland is set in a nightmarish parallel universe where the Nazi won! Even the thought sends shudders down my ancestral line, down through my chimp relations, through my fish relatives, all the way to the bubbling primordial soup. This is how scary Fatherland is.

I'm only joking.

Nightmares about the Nazi's winning the war are analogous to nightmares about the ancient Romans landing on the moon or the Aztec's burning down Paris. The nightmare is predicated on nonsense foundations. What if Freddy Kruger really enters my dreams? The Nazi's had no chance in hell of winning the war. Do you reckon you can fight the Soviet Union, the British Empire and the USA and still gas all those people? I thought not.

The naïve look at that red map of 1942, where the Nazi's have conquered Europe and they get worried. The documentary makers play this trick all the time. That 1942 map has spawned an entire genre of nightmare scenarios. But for the experienced onlooker, that map spells the end on the Nazi's.

Imagine a boxing match where the heavyweight boxer is battering his opponent for 5 rounds and, indeed, the guy getting killed in the ring looks tired, finished. The naïve spectator is convinced that the stronger boxer, who's obviously winning the fight, is going to win.

However, the seasoned viewer, who knows about boxing, knows that the aggressive 'victor' will soon run out of stamina and get knocked out! They always get knocked out. Human beings are not robots and a super fast human will tire. If a fighter comes out blazing, he will get knocked out.

Therefore, that 1942 map is a picture of hubris (the Nazi's) about the get killed by nemesis (us).

In reality, in 1942, the fighter got tired and 1 year later, he's gasping for breath, and 1 year after that, he gets knocked out. This is official history, in lieu of Hollywood and the merry go round of Nazi's in space and Nazi's on the moon.

Fatherland is still a magnificent nightmarish story that will frighten the bejesus out of you!
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on 17 April 2015
Fatherland is an excellent what if... story. World War II started to take a different course in 1942, the allied invasion of Normandy in 1944 was a failure. Robert Harris has created a frighteningly believable alternative history, full of fear, conspiracy and murder. In summary, the Germans aren't getting anywhere fighting the Russians; and their only option is to court the Americans to sign a peace deal with them. The difficulty is the Holocaust.To erase it completely the Gestapo embarks on a mission of murdering those party officials who knew about and who might give the game away. The SS are now the police and Xavier March (Anton Lesser) is assigned to investigating the body in the lake. It leads on from there.

It has been made into a TV movie by HBO and this is review is concerned with the radio series from 1997. Anton Lesser turns in a good performance as March. What I like about this series is its innovative approach to recording. The story is not in a studio, it is rather recorded as and where the book takes place - morgue, shops, street etc. The only exception is that London was used instead of Berlin. The difficulty with radio is that the production has to be able to convey an atmosphere of a Europe dominated by the Germans; and this seems to have been achieved. My 3 main niggles with the radio series is that if you're not listening carfully you can lose where the story has got to. My second niggle is the sound reproduction. In places it is quite low, making it difficult to hear what is going on. Turning the volume up a notch or two when recording might have been better. My final niggle is that there are no opening and closing credits. If it wasn't for the sleeve notes you would not know that it was Fatherland you are listening to,
I did enjoy the radio series, its got some of the inherent danger; but if you're not familiar with the story you will lose track of where you are. I would still recommend this radio series. Read the book first though.
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