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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sheer class
This is my favorite of Alan Furst's books because of the main character and it is one complete story. Some of his books are rather episodic.
'Captain de Milja was a soldier, he knew he didn't have long to live. And, in truth, he didn't care. He was not in love with life. One or two things had to be taken care of, then matters could run their course'.
'De Milja...
Published on 8 July 2007 by Kasablanka

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Just didn't seem to flow
The ‘Polish Officer’ follows the fortunes of Captain Alexander de Milja, from the fall of Poland in 1939 when he is recruited into the Polish underground to 1941, when he finds himself fighting alongside the partisans in the forests of the Ukraine. de Milja’s first mission is to take charge of the transportation of Poland’s gold reserves which are...
Published 7 months ago by Robin Webster


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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sheer class, 8 July 2007
This review is from: The Polish Officer (Paperback)
This is my favorite of Alan Furst's books because of the main character and it is one complete story. Some of his books are rather episodic.
'Captain de Milja was a soldier, he knew he didn't have long to live. And, in truth, he didn't care. He was not in love with life. One or two things had to be taken care of, then matters could run their course'.
'De Milja looked to be in his thirties, but there was something about him, some air of authority, that was much older than that ... His face was delicate, arrogant, hard ... in any event, he was a very serious man.'
Like a lot of the author's characters, they seem doomed but do survive or at least, are alive at the end of the book and sometimes make a brief appearance in some of his other books, especially as in 'The Foreign Correspondant'. It would be good to encounter Captain De Milja again.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark, Paranoid, Wonderful, 13 April 2002
By 
T Marshall (Hampshire) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Polish Officer (Paperback)
Having read "Night Soldiers" and "Dark Star" I leapt upon this novel with a huge amount of anticipation. Usually whenever I do this I am let down in some way, but Mr Furst has that most sought after of qualities in an author: consistency.
The Polish Officer in question is a wonderfully understated character, merely trying to do what's best in a more-than-uncertain world. With his loyalties lying with "a country with a bully for a neighbour" he seeks out the best underground way possible to continue fighting for it, be it against the Russian NKVD or the German Gestapo. We are taken along for the ride across a war-torn Europe, wondering much as he does as to when he is going to be killed, rather than if. He survives long enough for us to empathise with him and his situation. He is like we would be; ordinary but using it to his advantage. He underlines the fact that a James Bond in his situation would be merely a name on a headstone.
This is an excellent spy novel. This is an excellent war-story. But above all it is an excellent tale from an excellent author
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine novel of espionage in Occupied Europe, 20 Jan 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Polish Officer (Paperback)
This is the first novel I've read by Alan Furst, and I was pleased to find that the golden opinions which Furst has been winning (comparisons with Le Carre, among others) seem to be justified. He writes unobtrusively well, and the period in which the novel is set offers almost too much material for the thriller writer.
For the English or American reader, life in Occupied Europe from the perspective of those who lived there is still an unfamiliar angle from which to view the Second World War, and I found Furst's treatment a refreshing change from the usual Anglocentric perspective. There are no English or American characters of any significance; instead the focus of interest is upon the emigres and displaced persons, the former military officers and bandits who find themselves more or less willingly drawn into an apparently hopeless resistance to the occupying Nazi and Soviet forces in France, Poland, Russia and the Ukraine. It is a small triumph that Furst makes this unfamiliar material compelling to the English reader.
I would add only one caveat; the author's somewhat curious decision to limit his period of interest to that between roughly 1938 and 1941, (broadly, that in which the Axis powers were most clearly in the ascendant) although defensible in dramatic terms, left this reader at the novel's end with a strong feeling that the whole story had not been told. I understand that Alan Furst's other, and now rather numerous, novels are set in the same period, and one wonders how long it will be before he begins to feel constrained by this self-imposed restriction. Certainly the central character of The Polish Officer is strong enough to justify at least one sequel, and perhaps to set the mind at rest.
It is a measure of the author's success that one badly wants to know for certain that his hero survives the war. I will certainly be seeking out this author's other books, though I will be surprised if they are superior.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Just didn't seem to flow, 15 May 2014
By 
Robin Webster "Robin" (England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Polish Officer (Paperback)
The ‘Polish Officer’ follows the fortunes of Captain Alexander de Milja, from the fall of Poland in 1939 when he is recruited into the Polish underground to 1941, when he finds himself fighting alongside the partisans in the forests of the Ukraine. de Milja’s first mission is to take charge of the transportation of Poland’s gold reserves which are hidden on a refugee train heading for Bucharest. He then moves on to Paris just before the occupation, then acted as an intelligence officer before moving on to the Ukraine. There is no doubt that the author has much knowledge of the subject and there were some interesting snippets regarding the intelligence service in Paris and the tactics of the partisans in the Ukrainian forest. In fact there were a lot of good ideas, but far too many to fit into a book of 337 pages. I found that many, but not all the characters in the book were underdeveloped and for the most part the dialoge was just functional. I also felt it wasn’t the most well-paced book I have ever picked up and to me it read like a series of short stories. It’s a shame because I do read a lot of books on the subject of WW2. However, if I read a historical novel I do like the background facts to be right, but I also like it to centre on the characters and the interplay between them: Otherwise I’ll read a factual history book on the subject which I am also happy to do. However, someone who enjoys reading novels where the characters main function is to relay the events to the reader may have a different opinion.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A slow burner -- like a time-fuse, 30 Jan 2010
This review is from: The Polish Officer (Paperback)
Furst's books are formulaic in one way -- very few of them tell a story in the conventional sense. They recount contiguous, linked episodes -- extracted from the sequence of the characters lives. Sometimes these are messy, unresolved, not fully explained. They are like life in other words.

What elevates Furst's books in every case though is the quality of the writing. It is so good it puts you there in the story. 'Cinematic' when applied to novels usually implies that the author has written the book with one eye on it being converted into a screenplay, in a way that that cheapens the whole thing, probably. By contrast Furst's novels are cinematic in the very best sense because you can see everything he describes happening vividly -- in the cinema screen in your head.

In this book the scenes are exceptional -- not only can you see what is happening, the writing is so good you can smell what is going on too: the scent of the perfumes and cigars in the night clubs; the hideouts of the partisans; the night-time drive in the battered truck along the frozen river.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you like spy stories this is for you., 7 May 2011
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This review is from: The Polish Officer (Paperback)
I looked at this book because of the old cliche - judging a book by its cover but when I read the blurb I was really drawn in. How glad I am that I bought the book. This book got right into the phsyche of both the spy and the Pole. As someone of Polish origin I can say that Furst captures the essence of the Polish mind set perfectly - that curious mixture of pragmatism and romanticism. The story follows the life of the Polish officer just before and during the war years. What I loved about it was the fact that it made the reader feel the transitory nature of the lives of such people - and there must have been many of them - unsung and unappreciated heroes. I like the way things are mentioned which should engender stories in themselves but they are just a fleeting moment in Captain de Milja's life and remain as such. What a great story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Polish Survival, 30 July 2009
This review is from: The Polish Officer (Paperback)
In many ways an excellent book well written and evocative of its era.However like one other reviewer I found my suspension of disbelief shattered by elementary matters of detail and research.Since when have there been Norman Farmhouses and peasants in the pas de Calais?How could the Mayor of Calais make his own Calvados?Normandy is as we all know a little further away both geographically and historically in the context of the war.And could two alleged frenchmen really drive around recently occupied France with an invasion about to take place unopposed with no roadblocks or army checkpoints?Still it makes a very enjoyabl read but Le Carre it's not.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good story spoiled by excessive narrative, 5 May 2014
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I got this because this author has very good feedback, and also because my father was Polish so I thought it might be interesting to read a work of fiction based around his home country. Although the plot is interesting and I quite like the main character, there is a lot of expansive and irrelevant prose that at first was just irritating but now, barely half way through the book, has made me give up. The author is trying to be clever and, for me, ends up making me really not care what happens to any of his characters, Pity - in the hands of a better writer this could have been a really good read......
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4.0 out of 5 stars A tale of a disillusioned Polish hero, 13 Dec 2014
This review is from: The Polish Officer (Paperback)
This story gives us a really good insight into how Poland and the Polish had to deal not only with the Nazi Germany invasion but also how they dealt with being ignored, let down and forgotten by many other countries. While some posted made-up propaganda posters about imminent rescue by the allies, others learnt to accept the inevitable.
The Polish Officer worked with a group of other clever, well-bred men to start with, defending a telephone exchange that had already been cut off. The futility of it was the overall impression this story gave us as to how a small group of determined and courageous people tried against so many odds to do the right thing. The enemy was not just the Germans but the disillusioned civilians in all the occupied countries too.
If a little too 'American' in its narrative at times for the era it was portraying ('right now' being the most annoying of the phrases), the story's unromantic and realistic approach to the situation was commanding.
Incredibly sad moments include the officer's wife and her tragic life as well as the radio operator's heroism in France; all those brave souls who did so much good in miniature against the huge, evil of Nazi Germany and the enemies within.
I strongly recommend this book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lacking in tension and suspense, 29 Feb 2012
This review is from: The Polish Officer (Paperback)
Having previously read (and not enjoyed Dark Star) I thought I'd give this one a go as it only cost a £1 from a charity shop. But I found the same issues with this as with Dark Star, there's something about Alan Furst's writing style which I find clumsy - I keep wanting to add in verbs and prepositions which distracts from the story somewhat! There are a couple of factual errors in the book which leapt out to me but probably aren't that important. The main problem I have with both novels so far is that a period, subject and genre that is fascinating to me is rendered lifeless by this author. There is no tension, suspense or drama for me, and although I found this book marginally more interesting than Dark Star, but not much, I'm amazed at how someone can set a book at the time of two momentous events the start of the second world war and the German invasion of the Soviet Union, with all the attendant opportunities for drama and make them so lifeless and insipid. Even when the Gestapo caught de Milja's radio operator I felt no empathy for her or tension and fear as they closed in - that section could have been so dramatic. I was hoping for heart thumping tension as provided by Steig Larsson or Jo Nesbo, but this book is utterly devoid of it. For real drama about spies the real life account White Rabbit by Bruce Marshall.
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The Polish Officer
The Polish Officer by Alan Furst (Paperback - 27 Nov 2008)
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