Nikki's Reviews > Eye of the Needle

Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett
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Sep 08, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction, edgar-best-novel-winners, mysteries, books-set-in-england
Read in September, 2008 , read count: 2

Carl Sandburg said (in another context) "it pays to have a good forgettery." In this case, a good forgettery allowed me to reread Ken Follett's EYE OF THE NEEDLE (British title, STORM ISLAND) with every bit as much enjoyment as when I first read it 30 years ago. Also, having recently reread THE DAY OF THE JACKAL, it was fun to compare these two similar, but different, thrillers.

Both books feature multiple points of view -- quite a few of them in Follett's case -- and on both sides of the good guy/bad guy divide. Both involve historical events that we know turned out OK, and ask us to imagine a scenario where things could have gone quite differently. The difference in Follett's book is that nearly all the characters are more fully developed. I still found it difficult to work up much sympathy for The Needle, though, and when I found critics (both film and book) talking about his "falling in love" with Lucy, I thought only that they must have a very different idea of love than I have.

The stronger character development in Follett's book makes a lot of artistic sense, since, unlike JACKAL, EYE OF THE NEEDLE must build suspense over a period of four years, from the period just after the Phoney War in 1940, to just before D-Day in 1944. Without the character interest, this might have made for a less engaging story; and the behavior of The Needle, David, and Lucy in the final chapters would not have been as believable.

Reading this now, when Follett has again been on the bestseller lists with WORLD WITHOUT END, his sequel to THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH (both set in the Middle Ages), one notices how he brings his interest in medieval culture and history even into a World War II thriller. For example, he parallels Godliman the medievalist's search for Henry II's travels with Godliman the intelligence agent's search for The Needle.
I haven't seen the movie of this book, but probably will before long. I am reserving judgment on the casting of Donald Sutherland as The Needle -- somehow it just doesn't seem right to me.

In any case, THE EYE OF THE NEEDLE was quite deserving of the Edgar, even though it had some stiff competition, particularly Tony Hillerman's LISTENING WOMAN.

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Martha I've seen the movie & loved it which is why I've decided to finally read this book after all these years. I belong to & they offered it on sale. I agree that Donald Sutherland doesn't fit the book even though I remember liking him in the movie. It's been years since I've seen it so may have to rent it to watch again. Anyway, can't quite picture him as I listen to the book. I believe this might have been Kate Nelligan's first movie.

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