I wanted very much to like this book. As in Nabokov, the writing is at times breathtakingly beautiful, and always carefully crafted. But I simply didn...moreI wanted very much to like this book. As in Nabokov, the writing is at times breathtakingly beautiful, and always carefully crafted. But I simply didn't like the story -- tome, it was forced and unbelievable -- and the main character irritated me throughout. When he called his late wife a "cunt" that was the last straw, I'm afraid. This was my introduction to Banville; I'll try again because I really did admire his writing, but there needs to be more heart - much more heart - for me to feel an author is truly great.(less)
I had heard Alan Furst called "the master of the international espionage genre" so I wanted to read one of his books. Perhaps I picked badly, but for...moreI had heard Alan Furst called "the master of the international espionage genre" so I wanted to read one of his books. Perhaps I picked badly, but for whatever reason, I found "Mission to Paris" rather bland and certainly not a book to rival, for instance, Joseph Kanon's "Istanbul Passage." Although the premise was all right, I felt that the author himself was unconvinced, or bored; the writing was passionless and the story never picked up momentum. (less)
A very exciting story of international espionage, set in Istanbul at the end of WWII. The title refers to the clandestine passage of boatloads of Jews...moreA very exciting story of international espionage, set in Istanbul at the end of WWII. The title refers to the clandestine passage of boatloads of Jews, recently released from concentration camps in Eastern Europe, through Istanbul on their way to Palestine. Both money and information change hands, putting American, British, Russian, Romanian, and Turkish interests on a collision course.
I listened to Istanbul Passage as an audio book, and was mesmerized by Jeffrey Mays' reading performance, which brought the characters and their dialogue to life in a way I simply wouldn't have appreciated as much if reading a printed copy. His subtle command of accents, and sensitive portrayal of both male and female characters, was a tour-de-force. Joseph Kanon tells a good story, and even if some of the action is predictable, the characters are well-written, believable, and multidimensional. One of the major highlights of the book is its setting, with the city of Istanbul and the Bosphorus evocatively described by someone who obviously knows and loves them well. (I've always had a desire to go there, and this book increased that yearning.)
Kanon is sometimes compared to Graham Greene, and I can see why; this book is not merely a thriller, but an exploration of complicated moral issues in a way that Greene, I think, would have appreciated. The relationship between a man and three women - his wife, confined to a mental institution; the prostitute he regularly visits; and the wife of a high-level American consul -- is set inside the larger story of espionage, itself complicated by personal relationships between various characters who have to balance their allegiance to particular causes with actual friendships. Nothing is black-and-white in this place where the fall of the Ottoman empire is a recent, stinging memory, but international politics and power still collide.(less)
While I found some of Krause's observations interesting, his conclusions didn't seem particularly original or surprising to me, as a person who's spen...moreWhile I found some of Krause's observations interesting, his conclusions didn't seem particularly original or surprising to me, as a person who's spent a lot of time outdoors listening to the sounds of nature. I guess I had hoped the book would speak more about how aboriginal peoples developed particular instruments from the sounds that surrounded them, or how human song reflects bird and animal song, but this wasn't what he was writing about. I felt there was too much ego and too much emphasis on the science of waveform signatures of particular places, leading toward a rather heavy-handed conclusion about shrinking biodiversity (which is, quite fascinatingly, reflected in those audio signatures.) His overall take seemed thin, while the subject is so broad and rich. The book does have a great cover!(less)