Friday, 4 January 2002

Alan Furst: Kingdom of Shadows (2000)

Edition: Gollancz, 2000 (Buy from Amazon)
Review number: 1024

Furst returns once more to Paris at about the beginning of the war, his principal character being a Hungarian nobleman, on the fringes of his country's diplomatic legation to France and the person who carries out the complex political schemes of his Machiavellian uncle as Hitler begins to menace first Austria then Czechoslovakia, threatening much disruption throughout central Europe.

As events move towards the actual outbreak of war, these actions become more desperate and dangerous, and in the end Kingdom of Shadows relies more on action than it does on the background which is so important a feature of Furst's other novels. The most notable feature of the picture of Paris presented in this particular novel is its emphasis on the cosmopolitan nature of the city; virtually no character has a purely French background. The emotional tenor of the novel is provided by the reader's awarenes of what is about to happen - war in a few weeks, Paris occupied in months, no more a safe haven. All the desperate efforts of the central characters are to be for nothing.

Kingdom of Shadows is not quite as good as The World at Night, but is one of Furst's best.

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