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3.35  ·  Rating details ·  632 Ratings  ·  73 Reviews
The darkest secrets of World War II! finally revealed. The number one bestseller returns with his most explosive book to date.
Paperback, 406 pages
Published July 5th 2012 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published January 1st 2012)
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Community Reviews

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Rating details
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Feb 23, 2012 rated it did not like it
The publicity for this book promised "the most explosive wartime thriller since Fatherland". That's an odd claim, since 'Fatherland' wasn't set during the war but after it, in an alternative world. In fact, however, what we get is damp squib: ill thought out, unconvincing and disappointing.

It starts with a certain degree of promise. The opening is well told, our hero, battling his ruined body, rowing on the Cherwell in Oxford and the hook - his wife's flight from him with their young child - see
Rob Osment
Aug 12, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book started off promisingly, but quickly unravelled into a messy, disjointed thriller. The plot was either predictable or wildly implausible, with clunky twists and rushed setting. The main character lacked any qualities that made you sympathise with them or take an interest in their welfare. The attempts to bring credence to the plot are attempted through reference to real life events or publications, but these merely act to make the story even more unlikely and lack coherence. One of the ...more
Feb 15, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-books
Boring!!!! The book blurb flatters to deceive!! Less "Pantheon" more like "Wendy House". The narrator Julian Rhind-Tutt did his best to invest some energy into the story but this was a difficult task with such very dull material. Definitely will not be recommending this book.
Sep 16, 2013 rated it liked it
I do read thrillers and mysteries although not as often as some other genres and Sam Bourne is not a thriller writer that I have read before. This was chosen recently for a book club reading group that I am a member of, otherwise I doubt it was a title I would have selected myself. Whilst it was a reasonable read it was not gripping or exciting enough to have me rushing to read more of this author's work.

Set in the early stages of WWII with plenty of historical detail and well portrayed characte
Apr 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Bourne's latest book takes the reader into the past, as ther Second World War rages on in Europe and America oscilates about joining or sticking on the sidelines. Women and children from Oxford University go missing; a trail leading to homes on the campus of the illustrious Yale University. What seems like a simple outreaching of compassion to help the women and children ends up being something a great deal more sinister, something that could turn the War on its head.

The book examines some inter
Zaxxos Panidis
Dec 15, 2013 rated it did not like it
I was really disappointed.I liked his books that I've read before but this one was not to my liking.And how can someone like a book tha has a (main) character that is infuriating,annoying and makes the reader-me- wish him dead from the second chapter?The hero was a bully,not-considering,selfish and pompous.I hope the next book has more likable heroes and characters.
Aug 24, 2012 rated it it was ok
It took a long long time to get going and when it did, it wasn't that great. I couldn't quite believe that Zennor's family would leave like that.
Les Wilson
May 04, 2014 rated it did not like it
I struggled through this book and found it pointless.
Manik Ahuja
Jul 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Pantheon an interesting and well written book. It is almost like a psychological novel in the way it is written. It takes you deep into the inner recesses of our complex lead character, James Zennor's mind.

It has some interesting, well portrayed characters like James, Dorothy, Herrings and also a well captured setting, both of which imo are very nice mixtures of history and fiction. But that is not to say that the book is without its share of shortcomings.

First of all, although the book does ind
Steve Pillinger
Jan 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: imported, thriller
A fascinating book, centred on the little-remembered worldwide intellectual climate just prior to the Second World War, in which the pseudo-scientific philosophy of 'eugenics' featured prominently. This philosophy held that it was the responsibility of educated people and those in government to improve the racial stock of their people—striving to maximise the best and strongest through selective breeding: just as is done in agriculture and animal husbandry. Producing 'supermen' this way—gods in ...more
Stan Stillladdie
Mar 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
I do enjoy these types of books, little bit of truth mixed in with fiction makes for interesting reading.
Feb 11, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviews
The darkest secrets of World War II… finally revealed. Europe is ablaze. America is undecided about joining the fight against Nazism. And James Zennor, a brilliant, troubled, young Oxford don is horrified. He returns one morning from rowing to discover that his wife has disappeared with their young son, leaving only a note declaring her continuing love. A frantic search through wartime England leads James across the Atlantic and to one of America’s greatest universities, its elite clubs and secr ...more
Sid Nuncius
Dec 16, 2015 rated it liked it
I was expecting this to be a very good book. Sam Bourne is the pseudonym of Jonathan Freedland, an excellent journalist and broadcaster whose work I enjoy very much. Sadly, the same cannot be said for his fiction.

Set in 1940 the main protagonist is James Zennor, an Oxford don wounded in the Spanish Civil War, physically and mentally scarred and unable to join up and fight the Nazis. His wife and son vanish and he eventually traces and follows them to Yale in the USA where he realises that Someth
Jan 29, 2013 rated it liked it
I would ideally like to give this book 2 and a half stars.

The problem I found here, was that the main character, James, was just so predictable. He was supposed to be a Dr of psychology, yet is constantly losing his temper. It all starts the same way, he goes to talk to someone, doesn't get his way and quickly descends into anger and gets thrown out of where he is. Every time without fail.

I also found it a rather boring book. It promises that it's set in a war torn world, yet, the war takes ver
Christopher Everest
Sep 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
I was slightly put off this book to begin with - in that I prefer my Thrillers to be set in the present day whereas this is set in 1940. However it soon pulled me in. I enjoyed the historical sense as much as I appreciated the tension. I admit I did check the end of the book to make sure I could live with the ending - Strange but true - and it is a peculiar trait of my reading that if I identify with a character or a relationship I have to basically have a happy ending. Despite recognising that ...more
Graeme Stokes
Jul 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
The Author's note at the end of the novel clearly explains in detail the intrigue and truths to be found in the pages the reader has just finished.

Eugenic's as the basis of the novel and the greatest intellectuals all revered to this day such as the great writer George Bernard Shaw, philosopher Bertrand Russell, father of the welfare state William Beveridge, the pioneer of birth control Marie Stopes and lauded economist John Maynard Keyes and their belief in the study of methods of improving the
David Hull
My first Sam Bourne book. Reasonably enjoyable, though I found the first twenty or so pages rather confusing. I found the main character, James Zennor - the 'hero' - to be a thoroughly despisable, narcissistic, fellow, so, when he did something potentially heroic, I still didn't really like him that much. As for the introduction of the Taylor Hastings character, that seemed a bit incongruous - I wouldn't have missed his inclusion at all were it not for the titillating edge his activities provide ...more
Levent Mollamustafaoglu
Oct 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Interesting book by Sam Bourne. James Zennor is a scientist at Oxford University during the 2nd World War. His wife and son disappear one day and he has to trace them to find that they have been whisked away to Yale University in the U.S., purportedly to save them from the expected German invasion. James follows them with difficulty to Yale, finding out that they do not seem to be anywhere, but he starts seeing proof of a conspiracy within Yale University, having to do with all the families that ...more
SJH (A Dream of Books)
Nov 18, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: for-review, adult
After having loved all of Sam Bourne's previous books, 'Pantheon' was somewhat of a disappointment. That's not to say that it was bad but it just wasn't the usual thrill ride that I've come to expect from him.

I didn't connect with the main character James Zennor from the outset. After having been injured during the war, James is deeply traumatised but unable to open up to his wife who takes their young son and leaves him at the start of the book. They go to seek refuge at Yale in America and Jam
Nguyen Phuong
Apr 02, 2012 rated it liked it
One autumn afternoon in the mid-60s, Ron Rosenbaum, a recently arrived freshman at Yale, was summoned to the university's Payne Whitney gym and instructed by a group of men in crisp white coats to strip off. They then attached large metal plates to his spine, placed him against a wall and took a series of photographs. He was told this "posture photo" was a routine part of the freshman induction process, intended to identify students whose weak posture needed remedial work.

Rosenbaum was not alone
Mark Isaacs
In Pantheon, Sam Bourne delivers a stirring indictment of distorted theories of racial superiority, alas still subscribed to today by uneducated white supremacists as well as many Americans and native Europeans who resent the influx of foreign workers into their nations. Unfortunately, there is little else that is stirring in the book, a run-of-the-mill story about an emotionally scarred and physically damaged Englishman's search for the wife who takes their young son and abandons him at the ons ...more
Jul 28, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written, as in clearly expressed, easy to understand, clearly structured, no hiccups. The only negative, for me, about the writing, is that he doesn't vary the pace much: he stumbles over the fast action, exciting bits. That sort of things is hard to write anyway. The other thing is the over-explaining but that's got to be better than those authors who just assume we're with them.

I do think there is a mismatch between :
- The plot as it actually is
- The choice of words used to describe it as
Mar 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Warning - some minor spoilers.

This is the first Sam Bourne book, and after chatter about his earlier efforts I was unsure what to expect . . .

Bourne's style started out lumpy and "quaint", but not in a cute 1930's style, while dealing with the plot in Great Britain, but as soon as the action moves to America the book definitely comes alive and the pace quickens up and smooths out.

Arguably a good WWII thriller, with an unusual angle. However, for me one of the best bits of the book was the Append
Apr 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Gripping start, with a beautiful description of the central character's early morning row which brings in his appalling injuries and starts the unravelling of a complex plot. He arrives back home to find his wife and baby have vanished and this prompts a hunt that takes us through the mindset of Oxford (and American) academics in the 1930s and back to the Spanish Civil War.
It's extremely well-researched and written although some of the characters lack definition and I'm now looking at this write
Nov 22, 2015 rated it liked it
Set at the start of WW2 - the story of an Englishman drawn onto a web if deceit in the United States.

I wanted to like this and in parts it was good. A page turner but with a couple of flaws. The main one was the main character who spent so much time feeling sorry for himself that if I had been his wife I too would have fled the country.......

The women in the book were somewhat two dimensional and only really appeared to let the hero have someone to save.

I would try another one as the quality of
Paul Naughton
Aug 21, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What a dissapointing book, It doesn't know what it wants to be. I get the impression the author has two directions in mind and couldn't decide which to chose so made a fudge of it. There is some merit in the premis but the writing is not up to scratch. It is unclear if we are meant to like or loath the lead character and there is a complete lack of depth to anyone in the novel. I could have predicted the outcome from the point the story changes tack and his family go missing. Have passed onto m ...more
Jane Edward
Nov 01, 2012 rated it liked it

This book was on loan from my brother-in-law. Not normally the sort of thing I read, but as I didn't want to offend him, thought I'd best give it a go before returning it. I was actually pleasantly surprised. The story held my interest and although there were a few minor inconsistencies, it kept me guessing until the end. I would say, however, that it did fizzle out a little in the last few chapters. The storyline had so much potential but the ending was a little tree and safe. Not a complete wa
Andrew Bullock
Feb 28, 2013 rated it did not like it
You don't need to be a literary genius to write a good thriller but you do need to give your readers a protagonist they can engage with and some dramatic tension. Unfortunately, Robert Bourne pulls off neither of these tricks and the result is probably the most boring novel I've read since I made the mistake of trying Tom Clancy in the mid-nineties.

What makes it worse is that his handling of the interesting - but sadly underdeveloped - sub-plot involving English Fascists and pro-German spies sh
Denise Flynn
Apr 10, 2014 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book. It wasn't fast moving, not at all, but this didn't stop me enjoying the book. The main character was described in detail and presented initially as someone who had a series of flaws but as the book progressed I moved toward empathy with his character. The 'twist' came late on but was worth waiting for. If you want a page turner then this isn't our book, but if you want an interesting read, give it a go.
Greer Andjanetta
Oct 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A story which started slow but became more in interesting as it progressed. It involves an English husband/father who suffers from wounds suffered in the Spanish civil war causing his wife to leave him, taking their son with her. His search takes him to America just before they enter the war where he becomes involved with the eugenics movement so popular at the time. A satisfactory ending adds to the enjoyment of this book.
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Sam Bourne is the literary pseudonym of Jonathan Freedland, an award-winning British journalist and broadcaster. He has written a weekly column for The Guardian since 1997, having previously served as the paper's Washington correspondent. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, The New Republic, and The J ...more
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