The Foreign Correspondent Hardcover – 30 May 2006
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Mr Furst excels at period atmosphere, which he conjures up, not with a litany of facts absorbed and reproduced, but with light touches that suggest the broader scene. His characters are wonderfully human: complex and ambiguous, fearful and determined, but people, who, when need to be, can gather their courage and do what needs to be done. Mr Furst is a subtle, economical writer who knows precisely when to stop a sentence. (THE ECONOMIST (10.6.06))
There is something deeply comforting about Furst's cat-and-mousery, played out in Spain, Italy and the smoke-filled bars of Paris. But beneath the period detail there is both a complicated thriller and a full-throated love story. (WWW.FIRSTPOST.CO.UK)
outstandingly atmospheric and well-informed. (Jessica Mann LITERARY REVIEW)
The Foreign Correspondent is a reminder that the espionage novel - if that's what we're going to call it - can still be a vehicle for fine writing. Furst's audacious reinvention of the genre is a constant delight. (Barry Forshaw THE INDEPENDENT (5.12.06))
a typically silky spy thriller...the period minutiae, as ever, were superb. (David Robson SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)
This is the kind of literate and erudite writing we have come to expect from Alan Furst, who gives us an object lesson in how a quiet, beautifully written spy thriller can be just as gripping as anything in which bombs and bullets fly...Excellent. (Matthew Lewin THE GUARDIAN (9.12.06))
He [Furst] certainly knows his territory, and writes beautifully from the first sentence. (Alex Berenson THE SCOTSMAN (16.12.06))
Furst's heroes are exceptional in their intelligence, their canny ability to survice, and their remarkable attractiveness to women. (Ruth Morse TLS (22 & 29 December 2006))
Furst is often compared to Graham Greene, but a closer parallel might be Eric Ambler, who likewise dealt in the interface of politics and business, and whose characters are more ambiguous but less divided than Greene's...Furst...[is] so pleasurable and rewarding to read. (Michael Carlson THE SPECTATOR (30.12.06))
Furst's Simenon-like evocations of mid-century Paris are a reliable delight; what is also impressive here is how a relatively slender novel gives a panoramic picture of fascism and its opponents elsewhere in Europe, as Weisz's job takes him to Spain, Germany, Italy and Czechoslovakia. (John Dugdale SUNDAY TIMES (7.1.07))
a thrilling evocation of Paris just before the Second World War. (George Byrne EVENING HERALD (4.11.07))
Does anyone write better espionage thrillers than Alan Furst? The answer is a ringing no...This is a novel that shows Furst at his masterful best, his prose beautifully shaped, his use of understatement serene, and his creation of character supreme. Do yourself a favour and buy this book. You won't get better. (Vincent Banville IRISH TIMES (27.1.07)) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The next great page-turner from the master of the noir spy novel. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
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Furst comes from a line of writers whose literary lineage can be traced back to both Graham Greene and Eric Ambler. Like Ambler, Furst often takes an unassuming, or unwitting civilian and immerses him in a world of mystery and intrigue in pre and post-World War II Europe. Foreign Correspondent opens in Civil War Spain but quickly moves to pre-war Paris. Italian journalist Carlo Weisz, a refugee from Mussolini's fascist Italy living in Paris, is part of a group of Italian expatriates who print a dissident newspaper, Liberazione, and smuggle it into Italy. The Italian secret police, the OVRA, has infiltrated the group. One of its members has been murdered and each member of the group is feeling the effects of the OVRA turning the screws on their operations. At the same time Weisz' day job as a foreign correspondent for Reuters takes him back and forth to the Berlin of Hitler, Himmler, and Goring. It is in Berlin that Weisz reunites with and reignites his affair with Christa von Schirren. Along the way Weisz comes to the attention of and is recruited by British Intelligence. The plot outline is simple: will Weisz and his cell continue to publish Liberazione and will Weisz be able to get Christa out of Berlin before the war that everyone knows is coming closes all borders.
Furst's strong point has always been how he sets the scene. His atmospherics are tremendous. His descriptions of the streets of Berlin or Paris or Barcelona and the atmosphere of those cities reek of authenticity. Similarly, Furst has a keen eye for the inner life of his protagonists. Almost invariably Furst manages to convey a real sense of how those protagonists think and feel. Both of these elements of his writing generally dominate his plotting and are primarily responsible for getting the reader to turn to the next page. This is certainly the case with Foreign Correspondent. The plot itself is not complex and it did not leave me wondering what was going to happen next. Similarly, the book did not really build to a real climax. The book ended more with a sigh than with a bang. Some may find that a bit disappointing. However, as readers of Furst's books already know his novels strive for authenticity. In much of life, particularly in the era Furst writes about, storybook endings or dramatic endings are more the exception than the rule. However, despite being aware of this I think the ending was more than a bit anti-climactic and more so than in some of his other novels.
All in all, and as the title of the review suggests, despite some weakness in plotting (in my opinion) Foreign Correspondent will make for a satisfying read for a long, lazy summer day or a freezing winter night.
This certainly isn't a bad book. And there's nohing wrong with taking a "low key" approach to the 30s/40s espionage genre - but the Graham Greene comparisons are way off the mark. Compared to his earlier works, I'm afraid this is "Furst by numbers". All the usual elements are there: the jaded but honest protagonist, the potentially doomed love affair, the "night and fog" locations, and a few of the "occasional" characters from the earlier books.
But it just never quite catches fire. Sad to say, I could easily have put this book down a few pages before the end, with no burning desire to finish it. And that's something I never thought I'd say about an Alan Furst novel. I'll still await his next book with anticipation, because I know what he's capable of - but I think he needs to re-read "The Polish Officer" or "Dark Star" as a reminder of how it should be done.
If I change my mind, I will edit this review.
For all the suspense and evocation of the book, which i loved (Furst is clearly a very descriptive, poetic even, writer), i couldn't help feeling a little disappointed by the conclusion. I kept wondering how he was going to pull it off as i ran out of pages and so knew the end had to be coming somehow. Kolb's Berlin visit only takes a few pages, and Weisz's final journey (please note care with which i try to avoid plot spoiling) is also rushed. He suddenly arrives - and book ends. Ho hum.
But then i suppose this is a love story not a John Le Carre - and that is sort of the point, i guess. It is humanity and relationships that are the most valuable treasure to protect to in wartime. I have to agree. It's just that i would have greatly enjoyed further descriptions by Furst of how to reach this conclusion. But then, if one is begging an author for more, then this presumably means he has done his job pretty well.
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