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3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 13 April 2002
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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on 20 January 2001
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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on 8 July 2007
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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on 15 May 2014
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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on 5 May 2014
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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on 1 August 2014
He is a new author to me, wish I had come across him earlier.Very thought provoking,well written with plausible characters, action and background.If you like a book written with intelligence this is for you.
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on 11 April 2013
This is a page turner as most of Mr Fursts' books are. It appears to capture the period very well, including the way the social classes interact. It is let down, however, by poor historical research in places. For example the author has Lancaster bombers attacking a port in Belgium in 1940. Anyone with a superficial knowledge of the Royal air force would know that these aircraft were not in service until 1942. Whilst this may seem a pedantic point and there must be an allowance for poetic licence it left me wondering what else was historically incorrect. Despite this the book was a good read and a good overview of the political complexities of the period.
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on 21 March 2014
The Polish Officer follows Alexander de Milja, an officer in the cartography section of Polish Military Intelligence, for several years from the Nazi invasion of Poland. On the cover, there are quotes detailing it as ‘one of the best books of the year’. I don’t know if I’d assign it quite that level of quality, but I very much enjoyed it.

Other reviewers have praised this book for not being episodic - I thought it was. Rather than one over-arching storyline, which I was expecting, the book is really a series of little vignettes, each detailing a mission or space between missions. The women in the book, too, are just temporary characters, passing through for a while. It made the characters hard to care for, but perhaps the point of the book wasn't to engender too much empathy.

This was the first Alan Furst book that I have read – it only took me a day to finish. Despite the unexpected structure, it won’t be my last.
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on 29 August 2014
I came upon Alan Furst through the BBC TV mini-series "The Spies of Warsaw" I was delighted to discover "The Polish Officer" dovetails neatly into that story. I enjoyed this book from the first page to the last page and learned a great about the Polish contribution to the fight against Hitler.

This book will appeal to any reader who enjoyed the latest Robert Harris fact based novel "An Officer and a Spy".
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on 13 December 2014
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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