This is not normally a novel I would pick up, but more on that in a moment. Alan Furst is a well-known espionage writer who writes exceptionally well about World War II and the occupation of France.This novel forces you to consider the occupation and what daily decisions people would have made – joining the Resistance or turning a blind eye.
The reason I read this is because it was the last book my favorite uncle read before he passed away from cancer. He was extremely well-read and traveled, and when I asked him who his favorite author was to read for an escape he mentioned Furst without hesitation.
My uncle had a variety of particular interests – formula one racing, the horsetrack, punk rock, politics, and anything to do with World War one and World War Two history. He had an incredible memory for detail, dates and names, and was the gatekeeper of what my grandfather (his father) experienced in the war during the Battle of Midway and Guadalcanal.Of all of the countries he visited, France was his favorite (with Singapore a close second).
He loved elegant watches, a neat scotch, and to smoke. I could never even began to tell how unique he was, and how much I miss him. One burden you never get over is that you have questions that will never be answered; mysteries never solved.
The only thing I could think to after his passing and the quiet settled was to pick up Furst’s A Hero of France and attempt to see things through my uncle’s eyes. The moment I began reading I understood – Furst’s protagonist Matthieu is so masculine – he is loyal, brave, and full of class. The writing itself was concise, and the plot air-tight. Overwrought sentimentality did not exist.Both the pace and the prose were perfect. His hyper masculinity reminds me of Fleming’s Bond in Casino Royale, yet Matthieu has more honor, and no misogynism.
If you are interested in World War II, and enjoy thrillers, I cannot recommend this enough. My next task is to read Midnight in Europe, my uncle’s favorite Furst novel.