It's a part serial killer/murder mystery/love story/WWII novel set in Malta, a small island in the Mediterranean just south of Italy. Before this nove...moreIt's a part serial killer/murder mystery/love story/WWII novel set in Malta, a small island in the Mediterranean just south of Italy. Before this novel, I had never heard of the Siege of Malta. During WWII, it was pretty much the most heavily bombed place ever. Wow. The Allies were stationed on the island and were helping to fend off the Germans and Italians from invading.
Enter the Information Officer, Max Chadwick, a British officer in charge of, well, information. Obviously with all the bombing going on, morale can be quite low. So Max is in charge of keeping certain information hidden that might hurt the campaign, while promoting the heroism and valor of the Allies and Maltese.
On top of all that, Max is called in to check out the body of a young girl who was found dead, murdered. In her hands is the scrap of a officer's uniform. The coroner believes she was not the first victim. Obviously Max is in a bind: he can't let the Maltese people know that one of the Allied officers may be killing their girls. Creepily, some of the chapters are narrated by this unknown killer providing the reader with a disturbing glimpse into the killer's mind.
On top of all that, Max is in another predicament. He's been seeing one lady while he's fallen in love with someone else.
So this seems like a lot of stuff going on, but Mark Mills handles it wonderfully. The picture he paints is so vivid. Imagine constantly being bombarded day and night. Often, people just go up on roofs to watch the current wave of bombs. People have bomb shelters but they also hide in various tunnels throughout the island. They don't drive because the dust kicked up becomes a prime target. But life goes on.
I think the setting is what I loved about this book. I'm big into the history part of historical-fiction. The murder mystery is an added bonus. The only part of the book I didn't quite like is the love story part. I don't want to have any spoilers, but it was one of those things where you felt for Max but he kind of shot himself in the foot on this one (figuratively, not literally).(less)
It's set in Rome, Italy during World War II. Robert is an American stationed in Rome during the period following the liberation of Italy from the Germ...moreIt's set in Rome, Italy during World War II. Robert is an American stationed in Rome during the period following the liberation of Italy from the Germans. Italy was very grateful to the Allies...at first...but now they just want them gone. They want their country back.
Robert has made a deal with a local Italian girl, Lisa. She rents a room in a house, they pretend they are married. She gets some food, gifts, etc....he gets company at night. But in war, nothing is that simple.
This was a fairly short novel but very powerful. The book jacket sort of gave me the impression that this was a love story. But I wouldn't call it that. It really portrayed a segment of society that may get overlooked in other war stories. What happens to people when their country is occupied whether it be by friends or foe? What happens to the women? How do they survive?
I found it fascinating that Robert is an American while Alfred Hayes was a British writer. It really didn't portray Americans in a positive light...not negatively but definitely not positive either. Maybe spoiled and naive. And the title of the book, I think, references the type of girls who walk the streets who get picked up for money. And of course the ending was perfect for this type of novel. It really leaves you hanging...which is the point.(less)
The story takes place pre-World War II, in 1937. Andre Szara is a Polish-born journalist working for the Russian newspaper Pravda. While just doing hi...moreThe story takes place pre-World War II, in 1937. Andre Szara is a Polish-born journalist working for the Russian newspaper Pravda. While just doing his job, he gets coerced into working with the NKVD (Soviet secret intelligence). Setting up base in Paris, Szara becomes pretty much a spy for Russia. He travels across Europe as a spy and a journalist, enlisting the help of an agent in Berlin with whom he develops romantic connections.
Ok. So a spy novel. But Furst knows his history...sometimes a little too much. But I loved the cloak and dagger feel of the book and the time period was just crazy. I can't imagine traipsing around Europe right before WWII.
I'm going to definitely check out his other books.(less)
The fact that McEwan can cram such a powerfully detailed and well-written story into such a few number of pages has elevated his writing in my eyes. I...moreThe fact that McEwan can cram such a powerfully detailed and well-written story into such a few number of pages has elevated his writing in my eyes. I loved idea that the mistakes we make, even the ones of our youth, can have such terrible and life-long repercussions. Some of this novel's scenes remain vivid in my mind long after I've read it.(less)