12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Enjoyable enough but a little pedestrian by Harris's former standards,
This review is from: An Officer and a Spy (Hardcover)
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 suppress. State paranoia, the conspiracy of France’s military elite to ensure Dreyfus was convicted at any cost, and the eventual intervention of famous writers and thinkers of the period made this impossible. An innocent Jew from Alsace-Lorraine, Captain Dreyfus, was grotesquely and unfairly incarcerated on Devil’s Island because of his alleged espionage on behalf of Germany and his treason against France. Additionally, his scrutinizing champion, Colonel Picquart, suffered expulsion from his beloved military career simply because he persisted in trying to demonstrate Dreyfus’s innocence. The political flux in late 19th and early 20th Century French history, coupled to France’s terror of German ambition and its latent-but-revealed hatred of the Hebrew race ought to have combined to produce a first-class Harris historical thriller but instead, with ‘An Officer And A Spy,’ we have little more than an ‘A Level’ school text, narrated to us through the eyes of Picquart. Rather strangely, the book did not engender much sympathy for Dreyfus, neither did it paint much more than a two dimensional picture of the main characters involved. The real feel of France at the time of ‘La Belle Époque’ seemed to be missing and eventually it all became a little pedestrian compared to Harris’s former standards – even the end of the ‘novel’ felt somewhat rushed. It’s a shame as Harris’s skills could have achieved much more with this subject and period. It wouldn’t stop me buying more Robert Harris in the future as I do believe he has and he can write really well, but not, I feel, on this occasion.
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Initial post: 11 Aug 2014 21:22:53 BDT
Very good review - you summed up my own reaction exactly!
In reply to an earlier post on 14 Aug 2014 08:05:02 BDT
Laurence Paul says:
Your comment's and similar thoughts to myself concerning the book are appreciated. I try always to be fair-minded with any literary analysis. This is especially so when reviewing an author who has previously proven himself more than able to produce several superior novels.
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