Customer Reviews


 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An autobiographical biography
What annoyed me the most before reading this was that no one could tell me what type of book it was (novel/historical account etc). Having read it I can see why, and (like many other reviews here) can't pin down the genre, because there is nothing else like it.

The important thing is that no matter what the genre it is an amazing book. Original, gripping,...
Published 23 months ago by GP23

versus
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A great tale ruined by pretentious self-obsessive interventions
The story of the Czech and Slovak soldiers sent to take out Heydrich has it all: risk, intrigue, deception, death, disaster. What a shame that Binet fills the book with a self-centred, pretentious narrative about himself. I rarely fail to finish a book and this one came every so close. I have given the book to charity and there will be no re-read for me.

Why...
Published 15 months ago by Amazon Customer


‹ Previous | 1 227 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An autobiographical biography, 15 July 2013
This review is from: HHhH (Paperback)
What annoyed me the most before reading this was that no one could tell me what type of book it was (novel/historical account etc). Having read it I can see why, and (like many other reviews here) can't pin down the genre, because there is nothing else like it.

The important thing is that no matter what the genre it is an amazing book. Original, gripping, meticulous in its historical accuracy (not one thing is made up apart from dialogues the author imagines where there are no accounts), it covers a fascinating topic that enhances and changes one's perspective of the Nazi regime. Binet's stream of consciousness is interesting and easy to read by its ability to drift into directionless meandering thoughts then suddenly being pulled back to the heart of the action in the 1930s and 40s Reich.

This book feels more like an interesting and memorable discussion that Binet is having with himself than a rigidly structured historical account of the Nazi's rise to power and Heydrich's role in that; more notepad than novel, you feel not only as if you've read the book but that you've written it with him.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


133 of 145 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So what exactly is a novel ?, 25 April 2012
By 
C. Bones "surreyman" - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: HHhH (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I must admit this book sent me scurrying to see what the definition of a novel is. It is described on the cover as a novel and inside the author speaks of it as a novel and yet this is the true story of the wartime assassination attempt made on the life of Reinhard Heyrick, "the hangman of Prague", by two Czech resistance fighters sent from London. Its actually much more than that telling as it does of the whole rise of Hitler's Germany but it has a focus on Prague where Heydrich reigned supreme. And it is all true. The events described did happen and all of the characters did exist. There are no made up events, no invented characters, no fictional subplots. The author does make up dialogue to fit scenes for which there are no historical record, but he always makes it clear that in these instances he is writing history as it might have happened, as he would like to think that it happened.

So what makes it a novel ? Laurent Binet adopts the post-modern technique of placing himself inside his story to tell us how it developed, the people he met, the mistakes he made, the books he read and gives us his thoughts and feelings as he "lives" the story. At times he tells events with himself placed in the "now" and sometimes he places himself in Prague at the time events were unfolding. Also the structure does not flow in the linear fashion that a purely historical account might. It moves back and forth from events sometimes major sometimes minor, sometimes just a random quote from a wartime diary, sometimes a few paragraphs to tell how the author came across a related book and what he thought of it. The author is trying to make us experience what it was like to be there and he doesn't have any qualms as to how he goes about it.

And then there is the writing. Binet writes in a powerful and yet highly personal way. One minute he is writing a stirring or chilling account of events in Nazi Germany and the next he is slagging off some writer that he has come across. We are never in doubt that the author is passionately and personally involved with this story nor that there is a huge amount of research behind it.

And I think it is the coming together of all of the above that makes it a novel. When the structure and style and the writing combine to create something that is more artistic than any purely historical account would ever be, we have a novel. I think.

More importantly, it is brilliant. I often try to read historical accounts and just get bogged down in the dryness and wordiness of it all. Here Binet has written about something that I didn't even know that I wanted to know about and yet I was enthralled for every page of it. It would be easy to say it reads like a thriller and is completely unputdownable. Yes, but there is also a uniqueness that you will to have read the book to understand

Try it. This is a great novel !
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reinvention of the historical novel, but loyal to an epic story, 5 May 2012
By 
Withnail67 (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: HHhH (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I spent my Honeymoon in Prague one crisp and clear December, and among the happy memories, I recall coming across the Saints Cyril and Methodius` Cathedral in the middle of the city. What caught my eye wasn't the architecture, but the figure of a World War II `British' paratrooper, depicted by a statue outside the cathedral, surrounded like a saint's statue by lights, candles and flowers, next to a window pulverised by ancient bullet holes.

Like the author of this utterly compelling and innovative novel, I began to read about Operation Anthropoid, the story behind this book. In a popular media haunted by glamorous and glamorised accounts of special operations, the story of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich still speaks of the creeping terror of resistance operations, and the un-faded horror of the revenge killings executed by an utterly ruthless regime.

The malign genius of the story remains Heydrich, the quintessential Nazi, like yet unlike so many of his superiors and peers. He was not merely a sickeningly twisted inadequate, but had an icy glamour, being a compelling, intelligent figure as well as an amoral force. The story of his assassination and its motivation is dominated by the fear that such an able and lucid man would seize control of Germany's armed forces if anything happened to Hitler. Allied governments feared the power of the Third Reich would be dominated by someone who actually knew what they were doing. A supreme commander who might listen to his generals was too horrific to contemplate. This, combined with the pressures, compromises and anxieties of the Czech government in exile in London, led to the parachute drop of two soldiers, one Czech, one Slovak, on a lonely mission to rid Czechoslovakia and Europe of a tyrant.

The image of Heydrich in popular culture is dominated in my mind by the chilling portrayal of Heydrich by Kenneth Branagh in the film Conspiracy, and his appearance as a character in the latest Bernie Gunther novel by Philip Kerr. The claustrophobia of Anthropoid is also captured in the low-key 1970s film Operation Daybreak. I think if you want a dispassionate account of the operation from the military history perspective, you couldn't do better than the newly reissued and best account of the assassination by Callum Macdonald, The Assassination of Reinhard Heydrich.

This novel is something different, a breath-taking debut from young writer which moves easily between two very distinct genres. It seems imperfect, and compromised on first reading: sometimes mannered and self-conscious. But this is the essence of what the novelist is trying to do, and it makes for a powerful examination of the way a novel tells the story and the effects of novel writing on the author, dramatizing the pressure of doing justice to such a resonant and true story. The nearest British example I can think of in terms of this style was John Fowles' The French Lieutenant's Woman. Fowles was of course, influenced heavily by the French writer, Alain Robbe-Grillet, and obvious that this strand of the French "new novel" has been an influence on the young writer of this ground-breaking work. Binet combines the best elements of the thriller with a knowing self-interrogation of his literary process, and he resolutely refuses to fall between two stools, challenging, stimulating and delighting both audiences. I was particularly drawn to the self-conscious self-criticism of the fascination of the Second World War continues to cast across the generations. Binet is unashamedly a player of computer games, and the cold austerity of the war years seep even into his dreams. His engagement with the conflict and with the malign figure of Heydrich is troubling, yet honest, and created a deep sense of empathy from this reviewer. Readers interested in the anatomy of a fixation on an obscure topic by a writer, might find the short essay "9th and 13th" by Jonathan Coe where he dissects his obsession with the film "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes".

This is a wildly different novel to Hillary Mantel's Wolf Hall, but struck me as similar in its energy and reinvention of the genre. I could go on, but after reading this novel I feel any final words or statement on the Anthropoid story should conclude with the names of the two brave men who met their death in a cold church in a Prague side street: Jozef Gab'ík and Jan Kubis - rest in peace.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A great tale ruined by pretentious self-obsessive interventions, 4 April 2014
This review is from: HHhH (Paperback)
The story of the Czech and Slovak soldiers sent to take out Heydrich has it all: risk, intrigue, deception, death, disaster. What a shame that Binet fills the book with a self-centred, pretentious narrative about himself. I rarely fail to finish a book and this one came every so close. I have given the book to charity and there will be no re-read for me.

Why does this author feel he is more interesting that a great moment of history is beyond me. I am saddened that this tale of bravery and tragedy was defaced with such self-sychophancy. DO NOT WASTE TIME ON THIS ONE.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Pretentious retelling of a gripping story, 19 July 2014
This review is from: HHhH (Kindle Edition)
Only readable if you are interested in Heydrich and his death. Amazing story all too often rendered vacuous by the irrelevant preoccupations of a tentative narrator. Many fascinating, chilling facts which keep you reading between the writer's bouts of self-absorption. The author accentuates his narcissism with repeated, empty protests of false humility. The intrusion of his political views might be forgiveable were they not so banal and predictable (the narrator is a leftist French teacher).The narrator drops names of famous authors to help you realise that this LITERATURE. More specifically, names like Kundera, Borges and Garcia Marquez drum home that we should be thinking MAGICAL REALISM and experimental fiction. Unfortunately the writing does not remotely approach its pretensions. Not even the narrator's professed love for Czechoslovakia/Prague is convincingly explained, beyond lists of buildings and the presence of lots of pretty girls. Read a straighter history of Heydrich instead.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compulsive read that will not be to everyone's taste, 12 Mar. 2014
By 
Dr R (Norwich, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: HHhH (Paperback)
The bravery of his assassins and the depravity of the victim mean that books about the killing of Reinhard Heydrich are many; as Laurent Binet states, it is "one of the greatest acts of resistance in human history". This new book, its title derived from the phrase `Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich [Himmler's brain is called Heydrich]', addresses this story from a novel perspective.

Binet has immersed himself in the available information about Heydrich and sits down to write his book. He determines only to use information that is fully researched and, when this becomes difficult - for example in reporting exchanges lacking first hand evidence for their authenticity - he addresses his reader directly to explain his dilemma. Whether you will enjoy this book or not will depend on whether you find this approach intriguing or interfering with a story that reveals the best and the worst about mankind.

To an extent the author poses the same questions as do stand-up comedians including references to the Holocaust or 9/11 in their routines. If you consider that they, and Binet, have crossed a line of decency then you should not read this novel. If you are unsure how you will react then I suggest that you read on and make your own judgement. What is certainly true is that HHhH is like no other novel about WW II, including Vonnegut's `Slaughterhouse Five'.

As has been mentioned by others, the book does not have page numbers, rather each section, 257 in all - the shortest a single line, is numbered. Initially, I found this strange but it does enable the author to quickly shift from one topic to another, [those within the overall Prague narrative, references to other books and films that Binet has read, his discussions about his manuscript with friends, and considering textural alterations] without annoying the reader too much.

If retelling `this fabulous story' in this way makes it known to new readers then Binet will have succeeded. He and his fluent and fluid translator, Sam Taylor, have produced an exceptionally exciting narrative that builds up tension - even though most readers will know the outcome - although this does not stop us hoping for another ending. The story that Binet tells is very complex and layered in its political, military and historical elements, describing parallel events in Germany, Czechoslovakia and Slovakia, Ukraine and Britain. I cannot envisage an alternative structure that would inform, but not confuse, the reader. The award of the 2010 Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman suggests that Binet has succeeded.

The early part of the book is devoted mainly to the pre-war years, the responses of the different European countries to Hitler's ultimatum and the early career of Heydrich, "the perfect Nazi prototype: tall, blond, cruel, totally obedient and deadly efficient", including his role in the events of Kristallnacht. The scene having been set, the novel increases its pace after late 1941, when the 37-year old became interim protector of Bohemia and Moravia, earning the justifiable sobriquet `Butcher of Prague'. In January 1942, he formalised the extermination of Europe's Jews at the Wannsee Conference.

Only then are the unimaginably brave killers, Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubis, Slovak and Moravian Czech, respectively, introduced and their backgrounds and training described. Neither knew Prague so that they would not be recognised on its streets. The assassination attempt was a political necessity for the exiled Czechoslovakian government in London, to ensure that Czech national demands be addressed in the aftermath of the war. The assassins' differing homelands had massive consequences for their families, Kubis's Czech family being wiped out in Nazi reprisals whilst Gabčík's, living in nominally independent Slovakia, was beyond the Nazis' reach.

May 27, 1942, proved a fateful day and Heydrich's death from septicaemia a week later unleashed a furious response from Hitler - 10,000 executions, later reduced to `only' 500 people murdered or deported from Lidice, which was unconnected with the plot. Betrayed, the assassins and five supporters were eventually tracked down to the crypt of a church, seven men held out for hours against some 800 heavily armed Nazis. All 7 died.

Binet is withering about the Sten gun and Neville Chamberlain. This is an innovative way to write about historical events and it will be very interesting see whether Binet or other authors will adopt/amend the `infranovel' approach in future books.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Distracted and self absorbed, not for me., 18 Dec. 2013
This review is from: HHhH (Paperback)
I was looking forward to read this book as the subject and write ups were very good...

Well, they turned out to be, in my own humble opinion, too good to be true. The concept is ingenious but the execution is what prevented me from being gripped or drawn by this book.

The author wants to tell us the story of an assassination mission to take the most dangerous man in the Reich. The events happened and the author wanted to tell us about it. But the story gets lost in diatribes and the internal toing and froing of how it would be right to tell the story and what or how much would be good or acceptable to give in to a creative license (conversations and meetings).

The resulting book is a string of rambling thoughts, teasing us with accounts of the events, teasing with mentioning other people involved that deserved a book for themselves and very little mention of them after that.

If this book was a film or a DVD it would have not been the actual film, but one of the behind the scenes extras with a persistent and deviating Director's commentary, all of which only gives us a glimpse of a handful of scenes, but even those are cut short or interrupted.

Another thing to annoy me was when the author attacked Jonathan Littell's 'The kindly ones', a book that gives a great and detailed (novelized) account of WW2 from the Nazi side, a book that I got so much more from, though difficult to say enjoyed.

To sum it all up, I did not enjoy the book and did not share the views of it being an amazing work.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More like non-fiction, although well written, 22 July 2013
By 
BookWorm "BookWorm" (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: HHhH (Paperback)
I suspect that literature students would enjoy discussing if this should be classed as a novel or not. At one point the author describes it as an `infranovel'. I'm not surprised it won a major literary prize, as I'm sure this kind of self-referential cleverness is the sort of thing that would appeal to the literary people who judge these awards. But does it hold the same appeal for the likes of me, a reasonably intelligent person whose education focussed on sciences rather than literary criticism, who reads for pleasure and looks for books that are enjoyable without being mindless? I'm not so sure.

As a non-technical description, I would say this reads as a non-fiction account of true events, told in a relaxed, chatty style. It's not too hard to read, although I'm not a fan of non-fiction. The author is very concerned with presenting the truth (or at least, says they are). It is as much about the challenges of writing a historically accurate novel about real people, and how much artistic licence should be allowed, as it is about the actual assassination of Nazi Reinhard Heydrich.

One of my gripes about novels featuring real people, particularly those from recent history, is that you can never be sure what is true and what isn't, and are left feeling that you may have gained an unfair or inaccurate impression. So really I should love the care Binet apparently takes to report the truth and to point out whenever he may have used a bit of imagination. But I'd have loved it more if he'd written a gripping novel about fictional characters and left the real people out altogether. If I want to read about real history, I'll read a history book. If I want to read a novel, I like to be able to escape into it.
The book does quote quite extensively from other works of fact and fiction on the same events, and contains some spoilers - particularly for Robert Harris' novel `Fatherland', where the entire plot is summarised. Therefore if you are planning to read that book (and I would recommend it), you would be best to read it first, particularly as it is a thriller.

There can be no doubting the dreadfulness of the events depicted and the horrors of Nazism and their brutal suppression of the Czechs and Jews are more awful than anything that could be made up. The tragic events are given the respect they deserve. Having visited Prague and seen the places mentioned and the monuments to the millions who died, this book brought it back to me clearly and despite its lack of direct emotional engagement, is still moving. The effort to tell of the many ordinary people who died unspeakable deaths as a result of the assassination is a worthwhile one.

Readers who like books about writing and the writing process itself should definitely give this a try. I was reminded of Italo Calvino's `If On A Winter's Night A Traveller', although I found that book far superior to this one. Also anyone with an interest in the Nazis or World War II should add it to their reading list. Readers who prefer fact and non-fiction to conventional novels will be at home with this. Those who prefer escapism and understanding the thoughts of the characters would be better off finding something else.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HHhH, 7 May 2012
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: HHhH (Kindle Edition)
In the SS they said, "Himmler's brain is called Heydrich", the initials in German spell HHhH, hence the title of this book. It is Prague, it is 1942 and two Czechoslavakian parachutists are sent by England to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich; the "blonde beast", "the butcher of Prague". The Czech government in exile are under pressure to compete with the resistance groups in France and elsewhere and, despite misgivings, there can be no greater target than this.

We all know the story, and I suspect that most of us know the outcome. Yet this is not only the story of what happened but the author's discovery and quest to write this novel, which makes this very much a personal journey. I know that some reviews in the national papers have suggested the author is taking the limelight away from the characters, but I found him delightful. In the early stages of the novel his attempts to buy the book Heydrich's wife wrote is thwarted by the fact he would have to visit the local branch of his bank to arrange payment - "a profoundly depressing" prospect, which deters him. I think from this point I was totally on his side and, for me, the novel could do no wrong.

The first part of the novel looks at the rise of Heydrich, the training of the parachutists and the author's travels to find everything he can about that fateful day. It ends with the assassination attempt and part two takes the story from that point and the aftermath, including the retribution unleashed by the Germans on the civilian population. This is a book about immense bravery, such bravery that the author admits he can hardly imagine it. This is a breathtaking book, which I heartily recommend.

If you wish to read more about the assassination or about Heydrich himself, I would suggest Hitler's Hangman: The Life of Heydrich and The Assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, both of which are excellent factual accounts of the life and the assassination of Heydrich. However, this is a truly fantastic novel, and I have no doubt it is one of the best books I will read this year.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Original and Gripping Account of the Life of Heydrich, 15 Feb. 2013
By 
Dr. R. Brandon (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: HHhH (Paperback)
As noted on the cover, this is a highly original piece of work and is, at times, quite exciting, and gripping throughout. This is neither a complete work of fiction nor a history book but it does accurately tell the story of the life and assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in Prague, in May 1942. However, the author, Laurent Binet, also chooses to tell us about his own fascination with these events and his lifelong ambition to write this book. Binet relates his struggle to stick to the facts and avoid dramatising the characters whilst at the same time trying to capture the obvious intense drama that must really have taken place during many of the historical, but private, encounters. The author takes us through the early education and career of Heydrich, his enrolment in the Schutzstaffel (SS) and the events that led him to become the Protector of the Reich Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. The parallel story of the Czech and Slovak assassins is also told very well.
I thought I was well aquainted with the story of the assassination of Heydrich but Binet does manage to animate the events and to add many fine details and points of view that are absent in straight forward historical accounts. This is a first rate piece of writing, and an excellent translation, that flows very well and is a truly gripping read that will enthral all from the history buff to the general reader.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 227 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

HHhH
HHhH by Laurent Binet (Hardcover - 3 May 2012)
Used & New from: £0.01
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews