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149 of 157 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First rate!
I have long been a fan of Robert Harris and was pleased to be given this novel as a birthday present. I devoured it in a couple of (longish) sittings. I recall studying the Dreyfus affair at school but these were hazy recollections at best. Having read the novel I am now seeking out a good non-fiction book on the topic so that I have a better appreciation of how well...
Published 9 months ago by D. P. Mankin

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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable enough but a little pedestrian by Harris's former standards
I have enjoyed several Robert Harris books, especially Fatherland, and to be fair, Harris’s writing, especially his smooth and punchy use of dialogue, has improved considerably since earlier work. The actual ‘Dreyfus Affair’ was a complex, sordid and prejudicially-charged series of military, legal and social incidents which France at the time was keen to...
Published 5 months ago by Laurence Paul


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149 of 157 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First rate!, 27 Sep 2013
By 
D. P. Mankin (Ceredigion, Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: An Officer and a Spy (Hardcover)
I have long been a fan of Robert Harris and was pleased to be given this novel as a birthday present. I devoured it in a couple of (longish) sittings. I recall studying the Dreyfus affair at school but these were hazy recollections at best. Having read the novel I am now seeking out a good non-fiction book on the topic so that I have a better appreciation of how well Robert Harris has integrated fact with fiction. The novel is revelatory in terms of demonstrating through fiction the lengths governments will go to in order to conceal the truth. Dreyfus was, to put it succintly, fitted up. As the author has shown in previous novels he is adept at (a) evoking a period setting, (b) creating well rounded characters like the central protaganist here, Colonel Georges Picquar, through whose eyes the story unfolds, and (c) making political machinations seem totally believable (and you only have to look at some of the more recent political scandals in the UK to draw certain parallels to those in this novel). The author's prose style is as fluent as ever, plotting is handled superbly, and the whole story rattles along. What really shines through the fiction is the author's obvious fascination with this famous French scandal. Highly recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Historical fiction in one of its best editions, 21 Feb 2014
By 
Denis Vukosav - See all my reviews
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This review is from: An Officer and a Spy (Paperback)
“An Officer and a Spy” written by Robert Harris who attracted worldwide public attention with his novel ‘Fatherland’, is a great historical fiction, which tells the less known story of Dreyfus affair that at the end of the 19th and beginning of 20th century divided France and led it to the brink of civil war.

The novel main character Georges Picquart works in French Army Statistical Section, he’s smart recently promoted leader of the counterespionage intelligence unit responsible for Dreyfus exposure as German spy that organized his trial. Alfred Dreyfus was a young Jewish officer, who due to treason conviction was sentenced to life imprisonment at Devil’s Island, while his rank was humiliatingly taken away from him in front of mob crowd of twenty thousand persons which shouted “Death to the Jew!”

Georges Picquart will begin to explore some clues that have emerged in this case, recognizing from the start that things are not exactly like they were presented by government and that obviously something or someone else is behind the accusations that Dreyfus was exposed to and due to which his life was ruined. He will start suspecting that there is still a spy in the French military and that wrong man was accused.

The story is incredibly realistic and reader will many times ask herself/himself if all those things could really happen to this unfortunate man, but to the novel main character as well, who only tries to get to the truth. And while his investigation becomes more complicated, offering only new questions rather than answers, Picquart will start questioning not only the Dreyfus verdict but also his own beliefs, his faith in the French people and the government to which he serves…

“An Officer and a Spy” is a story about the Dreyfus affair, which is not so well known in the rest of the world, and shows a remarkable fact that the anti-Semitic movement was particularly strong in France just before the First World War. On the other hand is amazing that a Jew was accused of helping the Germans forty years before the terrible harm that will be done to Dreyfus people by this same nation.

The affair that took place between 1894 and 1906 is universally seen as a symbol of injustice, being one of the most known examples of unjust accusations where the major parts were played by public opinion and media. In the end, all the accusations against Alfred Dreyfus will prove unfounded and in 1906 Alfred Dreyfus was reinstated in the French Army where he served during the whole of First World War. Dreyfus affair divided whole France, almost leading to the brink of civil war, and one of the most prominent supporters of Alfred Dreyfus was the known writer Émile Zola who took lot of credit that for the Dreyfus accusations rejection.

Robert Harris with this novel once again proved as one of the best historical fiction writer who created compelling characters resulting in his book, despite the length of over 400 pages, is easy to read almost without stopping, even though we know how it will end. Therefore, his great book can certainly be recommended to all those who loved ‘Fatherland’ and Harris style in general, because his latest work “An Officer and a Spy” is a very thrilling and well-written title.
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46 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Triumphant return to top form for Robert Harris, 26 Nov 2013
I have always enjoyed Robert Harris's books immensely, although I did feel he had "gone off the boil" a bit with his later ones. I did not particularly enjoy the two Roman ones, and felt that both The Ghost and The Fear Index were inferior to his earlier, cracking thrillers based around real events. My husband pre-ordered this book and read it obssessively on holiday, and I snatched it from him the minute he'd finished it.

We'd both read the various reviews, which served to act as a reminder about the politics and progression of L'Affaire Dreyfus - like most reviewers, we had a reasonable idea of the episode in outline, rather than the detail. One thing I was unaware of was quite how long it dragged on and how the French General Staff perpetrated almost any untruths rather than admit they were wrong. It did seem to resonate with some current affairs, but it was truly anchored in the late 19th Century, and did not attempt to view it in the light of the 21st. It was still breathtaking in its outrage, however and totally absorbing. The huge cast of characters were so well defined and described and the appalling dirty tricks were as thrilling as any fiction - and at times almost more extreme than could reasonably be imagined. The fact that Dreyfus was not a particularly likeable character, and his defendant Picquart admitted to not caring for him personally, made it all the more astonishing that Picquart was prepared to risk his career in his cause. I found it ironic that one of the things held against Dreyfus was that he was from Mulhouse (in Alsace Lorraine), spoke French with a German accent and his wealth came from Germany, whilst the majority of the Intelligence staff in the book (Picquart included) were also from Alsace(annexed by the Germans post 1870), and all burned with a consequent hatred of Germany.

Despite the outcome being known, I literally could not put this book down, and enjoyed looking up the various protagonists on Wikipedia (unlike some reviewers I did not find this impeded my enjoyment in any way.) The variety of magnificent - and in some cases downright ridiculous - moustaches on view somehow seemed to reflect the self-regard and stubborness of the French General Staff, who refused to admit their errors and machinations even when international interest was aroused. This is a book for anyone who is interested in 19th Century history, as well as Robert Harris fans.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading even if you know what's coming, 19 Jun 2014
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I was familiar with the Dreyfus story so knew how roughly how this would end, but Robert Harris does an excellent job at maintaining the tension throughout the book. He also conveys the details of the hypocrisy in the army and anti-semitism that pervaded the affair, but showing the shades of grey and how people were culpable to different degrees.
The conclusion comes across in a piecemeal and slightly messy manner, but that is very much a reflection of how these things often wind up in real life. Overall a very good read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb historical fiction, 17 Jun 2014
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I've enjoyed Harris's books in the past, but none so much as this. The sense of time and place is vivid, and the subtly moving viewpoint of the protagonist engages from start to finish.

Whether you already know something of the Dreyfus Affair or not, this is a real treat; the last historical novel I enjoyed as much was Hilary Mantel's Place Of Greater Safety.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riverting, 3 July 2014
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I bought this to read on holiday and basically read it cover to cover before I got to my destination
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Chapeau", M. Harris, 30 Dec 2013
By 
Alastair Black (Germany) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: An Officer and a Spy (Hardcover)
I have read and re-read every Robert Harris book apart from "The Fear Index".
Within the first five pages of every book I start off by thinking "Why the hell did I buy this, what is so interesting about(for example)Cicero or aqueducts in Naples?"
But then , but then, after ten pages you are hooked into the story and you really can't put the book down until the end.
A tribute to the skills of the writer, I think.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Weel-known story told with flair, 28 Dec 2013
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This review is from: An Officer and a Spy (Hardcover)
Robert Harris's books never cease to amaze me.This time he has come upwith a very wellknown story,but it seems that I have been reading it for the first time though I know it well.Amaster story teller.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, 28 Dec 2013
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This review is from: An Officer and a Spy (Hardcover)
Robert Harris writes with elegance, good timing and a fine eye for structure, I think. I enjoyed this book enormously and would recommend it to anyone who either likes a good read or who is appalled by the injustices of this world or both.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Brilliant, 25 Dec 2013
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Ensure you will suffer no distraction while reading this book. A most engaging read requiring on-going attention to the characters and events. This book swallows you in, but I found it to really bite at about the 67% mark. I read some of the other reviews prior to buying this book and can only support further the high acclaims it has generated. Best advice if you are unaware of the true events - I think - would be to avoid any investigation and read this first. Buy it, read it.
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Officer & a Spy
Officer & a Spy by Robert Harris (Mass Market Paperback - 6 May 2014)
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