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The Polish Officer by Alan Furst
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The Polish Officer (original 1995; edition 2008)

by Alan Furst

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782None11,753 (3.9)67
Member:AHS-Wolfy
Title:The Polish Officer
Authors:Alan Furst
Info:Phoenix (2008), Paperback, 352 pages
Collections:Your library, To read
Rating:
Tags:Spy, Thriller, Night Soldiers, TBR

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The Polish Officer by Alan Furst (1995)

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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
The period between the wars, especially the later period (we're of course talking Europe here) in the run-up to World War II especially in Eastern Europe, fascinates me. This is where Alan Furst's excellent novels are set. According to the introduction information, he has travelled and lived for many years in France and eastern Europe, though reading his books, you'd find it hard not to believe he wasn't transported in a time-machine, directly to today from Europe of the late 1930s.

The Polish Officer is part espionage novel and part fascinating look at ordinary people being forced to understand extra-ordinary situations. Situations made all the more extra-ordinary as their optimistic, post-World War I world is torn apart by forces beyond their understanding and, more importantly, beyond their control. It is surely a fictional companion piece to Max Hastings' 'All Hell Let Loose.'

I found this an absolutely absorbing novel. By far the most satisfying Alan Furst novel I've read so far. It is set in Eastern Europe, in Poland, at the outbreak of World War II. The main character is drafted into Polish Intelligence, while the war causes the world around him to collapse. He and his colleagues try to re-establish their places in the new world and determine how the future of their country might look. Being Polish, they of course know that however things turn out, it's probably going to be largely out of their hands and that other, bigger and more powerful, powers will determine what happens to the Poles and so their job is to try and make the best of it, while also trying to make sense of it all.

He is sent undercover through Poland, to France, to Spain, to England and back to Poland where the Nazis are now on their way into Russia and the world is turning upside down once again. As i said earlier, I think the book is about people trying to make the best of situations that are largely out of their control. They are trying to remain in control of their lives, while realising that it probably isn't possible.

This is a thrilling, tense, satisfying book. There are many absorbing vignettes, many interesting characters, many thought-provoking episodes, all linked by the Polish officer of the book's title, who is, as he says at one point; "...a wanderer, somehow never home." ( )
  Speesh | Mar 29, 2014 |
Classic Furst. Our hero, a Polish officer moves around Europe working for the Pollish underground against the Germans and sometimes Russians. A little slow in the middle but a good tour of a time and a place that we know through heroic American war movies but not through the eyes of the citizens of europe who lived through it. ( )
  JBreedlove | Aug 20, 2013 |
Finished another Alan Furst book. I am hooked. I really like his rather old fashioned, simple novel format - there's a little romance, a few killings, quite a bit of suspense (these are spy novels, after all) and some good historical background. He has obviously done his homework in learning about Europe between 1938 and 1945; all kinds of spies and underground networks working against the Nazi Germans. His books have the atmosphere of Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, you can almost hear Sam singing "you must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss, and...... as times go by." My goodness, if you have not seen Casablanca - do that, now! And then read some Alan Furst.

This latest book is The Polish Officer and we follow a likeable Polish fellow as he works against the Nazis first as they invade his homeland, second from his base in Paris, and finally in the woods of the Soviet Union as the Germans head to their winter defeat. He carries the different persona well: he's an officer in the Polish military who escapes to Paris, and there, he is a "bon vivant", mixing with "rich and famous" while passing secret messages, and then he morphs into a member of the Underground doing sabotage to the German trains, and mounting a clever attack on a prison. The final scene is worthy of a classic 1940s black and white movie. I loved the book, and somewhat reluctantly turn to my next read, which is a science fiction book. ( )
  maggie1944 | Sep 8, 2011 |
Until recently I didn't know of Alan Furst's writing at all, but I'm very pleased to have now discovered it. This was my first of his books, and from other reviews out there it looks as though there are plenty more to enjoy which will be even more satisfying than I found this one. I don't often read what might be called 'spy thrillers', but I am a fan of historical fiction. This book - and I gather the others of Furst as well - is a successful blend of the two genres.

In a word I would describe this as 'atmospheric'. Highly atmospheric. The plot itself is not the most intriguing element, rather a series of early wartime assignments following the 1939 invasion of Poland and taking us up to the first winter following the German invasion of Russia in 1941. The main protagonist - Captain de Milja of the title - is a very believable character. He is a man who appears to have surrendered himself to the circumstances he finds himself in at the war's start, determined to make the best of it in order to survive. He will do what he can for his nation while it finds itself under occupation and it's government in exile.

Where this book excels though is in the authenticity given to the various locations that the story unfolds in, primarily Poland and France, and the feel of the places that really comes over. The cafes, the locomotive sidings, the lonely hotels, the remote farms. You can smell the wood smoke on the village's edge and hear the old clocks' dull ticking in the safe-house of a humdrum railway town. The secondary characters are fascinating and I only wished that some of their stories be slightly more explored, though perhaps this is Furst's intention, as de Milja so often finds himself suddenly reassigned or having to make an abrupt escape.

Overall, a very enjoyable and escapist read into a frightening world which the author brings to life very skilfully. I will definitely be reading more of his work. ( )
1 vote Polaris- | Jul 28, 2011 |
I've included this book in a review of several similar books here: http://douggeivett.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/mysterious-opening-lines-le-carre-lu...
  RDGlibrary | Nov 28, 2010 |
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In Poland, on the night of 11 September 1939, Wehrmacht scout and commando units - elements of Kuechler's Third Army Corps - moved silently around the defenses of Novy Dvor, crossed the Vistula over the partly demolished Jablonks Bridge, and attempted to capture the Warsaw Telephone Exchange at the northern edge of the city.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375758275, Paperback)

September 1939. As Warsaw falls to Hitler’s Wehrmacht, Captain Alexander de Milja is recruited by the intelligence service of the Polish underground. His mission: to transport the national gold reserve to safety, hidden on a refugee train to Bucharest. Then, in the back alleys and black-market bistros of Paris, in the tenements of Warsaw, with partizan guerrillas in the frozen forests of the Ukraine, and at Calais Harbor during an attack by British bombers, de Milja fights in the war of the shadows in a world without rules, a world of danger, treachery, and betrayal.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:01:27 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

In September 1939, as German forces ravage Poland, Captain Alexander de Milja, a Polish intelligence officer with the resistance underground, risks his life in the treacherous world of global espionage to help his country.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 6 descriptions

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