Emily's Reviews > Fatherland

Fatherland by Robert   Harris
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Nov 08, 2009

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Inadvertently, I seem to have picked up a book that is the opposite of The Yiddish Policemen's Union. (There's also a shade of the mediocre Farthing here.) Whereas Chabon's book imagines a world in which Jewish refugees form a state in Alaska (which forms the backdrop for a mystery novel), this book imagines a 1964 in which Germany has triumphed over Russia, subjugated Europe, and is in a cold war with the United States (as a backdrop for a mystery novel). The alternative world has some interesting touches--here, it is Russia's oppression that is thought of as the war crime of the period, since the German victors write their own crimes out of the history books--but Harris's building upon what is known about Nazi-era German society is not as rich as what Chabon created from scratch. The mystery here is a traditional and well-executed one, and towards the end it reminded me of the John Le Carré novels I read last year. Whether you think the novel trivializes the Holocaust by reducing it to set dressing, or brings the issue of accountability to life, is a matter of individual taste, I suppose.
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