The Foreign Correspondent by Alan Furst

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The Foreign Correspondent by Alan Furst

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A dramatic thriller and romance set in pre-WWII Spain, Paris, Berlin and Italy is well-plotted and a page-turner. It's one to buy as it will stand re-reading.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: October 2007
Publisher: Phoenix
ISBN: 978-0753822302

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In 1938 the civil war in Spain is drawing to its sad and inevitable end and the story is covered by Carlo Weisz, a foreign correspondent working for Reuters in Paris. He's actually Italian, having fled to Paris along with thousands of other intellectuals unable to stomach Mussolini's fascist government. There they founded Liberazione, an underground newspaper which is smuggled back into Italy, in the hope of enlightening Italians about what is happening in their country. Whilst Weisz is in Spain the paper's editor is murdered by OVRA, Mussolini's secret police and Weisz becomes the new editor. The Foreign Correspondent is the story of how Weisz and his fellow émigrés who produce Liberazione are pursued by the Sûreté, Mussolini's OVRA and the British Secret Intelligence Service, all with their own agendas, their own ideas for the future of the paper.

It's a story with tremendous atmosphere, from the trenches of the Spanish Civil War, through a Paris dreading war, a Berlin spoiling for a fight and finally to Fascist Italy. Each country has an entirely different feel about it. Spain is a war zone, with the battle being fought and lost by the likes of the man known as Colonel Ferrara, an Italian fighting against fascism in Spain. Eventually he's forced to flee to France. War hasn't yet come to Paris, but most people realise that it's inevitable, particularly once Germany and Italy join forces. For the Italian émigrés there's a sense of being watched and a constant feeling that the newspaper they risk all to produce is teetering on the edge of extinction.

Berlin is the most interesting of the cities, with its bullish swagger and a fascinating insight into the way in which Italy was pushed into supporting Germany by The Pact of Steel. It's history delivered in a very user-friendly manner and an elegant description not just of war, but of how war happens. Italy was cowed by Mussolini and slowly becoming aware that it would be at war, like it or not.

This isn't just a book with atmosphere though. There's an excellent plot and I was left wondering how it would work out until the last page. It's well-paced and exciting with its changing locations and plenty of dramatic tension to keep the pages turning. It's a book that will be enjoyed by both men and women. There is a love interest but it's handled sensitively and never descends to the level of chick lit.

What made this book for me though were the characters. Weisz himself is easy to warm to. He's a permanent exile, uncertain even that he would wish to return to Italy. His job's in Paris, but his heart is in Berlin and he's brave but not fearless, principled but with his own vulnerabilities. Christa von Schirren is brave to the point of foolhardiness and involved with a resistance group in Berlin that has little chance of success or even survival. Colonel Ferrara could have been a caricature - the scar-faced fighter unlikely ever to return to his family - but he's not. My favourite character was Arturo Salamone, the leader of the Paris committee publishing Liberazione. He's shrewd, but frail and struggling to survive whilst he fights for what he believes is right for Italy.

It's a superb book and if you've any liking for wartime thrillers you can't help but enjoy it. My thanks to the publishers for sending this book and introducing me to a writer I'd not previously read.

If this type of book appeals to you then you might also enjoy Depths by Henning Mankell.

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Buy The Foreign Correspondent by Alan Furst at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Foreign Correspondent by Alan Furst at


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