Furst, Alan. Night Soldiers. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1988
I have to admit this took me a little time to get into. The story starts off in 1934 with a violent bang. Khristo Stoianev is a Bulgarian teenager who witnesses the brutal beating and subsequent killing of his younger brother, Nikko. Nikko, only 15 years old, was used as an example of a growing power. Using this tragedy as a vehicle for change, Khristo is drawn into the NKVD, the Soviet intelligence service. From there he is sent to serve in the Spanish Civil war (although it is curious to note during his training he was taught English and French, not Spanish). Meanwhile,the political arena is heating up. Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia are arm wrestling over real estate in Eastern Europe. Stalin is starting to purge the undesirables and this is to include Khristo so he flees to France.
Furst paints a stunning picture of eleven years of Eastern European history complete with French underground guerrilla operations, lavish love affairs, the never ending quest for power and multidimensional aspects of war.
Most telling line, “But these were political times, and it was very important to think before you spoke. Nikko Stoianev spoke without thinking, and so he died” (p 3).
Favorite line, “The nasty scene at the Finnish embassy refused to leave his mind, and he and Andres had decided to drawn their war in a bottle of Spanish gin” (p 161).
Author fact: Alan Furst was born on February 20th, 1941. He has an ongoing love affair with Paris.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “World War II Fiction” (p 253) even though WWII isn’t the focal point of the the story.
Le Carre, John. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Toronto: Bantam Books, 1975.
I have seen this book peering out at me from my parents bookcase for years and years. I was always fascinated by the title, but scared of the plot. As a teenager I could never get into spy books. I don’t think it had anything to do with being a girl because I read the Hardy Boys just as readily as Nancy Drew. I think it was the fear of spies in general. I mean, think about it – a spy is someone you think you know, but don’t. A spy is someone completely different than who they appear to be. That scares the crap out of me.
To be honest Tinker Tailor was one of the most confusing books I have ever tried to read. For starters, it’s one of those start-in-the-middle-of-the-plot books. The only successful way to catch the reader up on what has been missed is a series of flashbacks. I kept getting the flashbacks confused with the here and now. Another thing I kept getting confused was the language. le Carre has a whole series of secret words to describe the Cold War spy game. For example, a babysitter is really a bodyguard.The plot itself is really straightforward inasmuch as an espionage thriller could be. George Smiley is pulled out of retirement as a British Intelligence officer. He is recruited to uncover a Russian mole deep in the BIA’s ranks. Of course, that it the simplest, dumbed-down plot synopsis I could make. Many reviewers have called Tinker Tailor “complicated” and I would have to agree.
I did manage to find a favorite line in the 50 pages I did read, “Only food could otherwise move him so deeply” (p 23). Go figure.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called, “Cold War Spy Fiction” (p 61).
Interesting sidenote: John le Carre is the pen name of David John Moore Cornwell.
September is the storm before the calm – literally since Earl is raging up the coast! School is back in session. A new hire is on the premises. Things are a little crazy right now. Here are how things look for books at the moment:
- Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre ~ in honor of the Cold War starting in September
- Between Parent and Child by Haim G. Ginott ~ in honor of National Family Month
- Where Big Foot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide by Robert Pyle ~ in honor of Bigfoot being spotted on September 16, 2007 in Pennsylvania (yay for the Northeast Sasquatch!)
- Wild Life by Molly Gloss ~ a companion read to Where Big Foot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide.
- Moo by Jane Smiley ~ in honor of school being back in session
I’m also in the process of reading a few food books and an Early Review book. More on all of that later.