Alan Furst

Paris, 1938. As the shadow of war darkens Europe, democratic forces on the Continent struggle against fascism and communism, while in Spain the war has already begun. Spies and secret operatives in Paris and New York, in Warsaw and Odessa prepare for war.

This is the set-up for Alan Furst’s 13th novel about Europe prior to and during World War II, Midnight in Europe. The main protagonist is Cristián Ferrar, a brilliant and handsome Spanish émigré working for a prestigious international law firm in Paris. He is asked by the Spanish embassy to help supply weapons to the Republic’s beleaguered army—an effort that puts his life at risk in the battle against fascism. Joining Ferrar in this mission is a group of unlikely men and women: idealists and gangsters, arms traders and aristocrats and spies. From shady Paris nightclubs to white-shoe New York law firms, from brothels in Istanbul to the dockyards of Poland, Ferrar and his allies battle the secret agents of Hitler and Franco.

In his glowing review in the Boston Globe, Kent Black says Midnight in Europe lives up to the previous installment “It was novelist Alan Furst who taught me the meaning of “ ‘world war,’ ’’ Black writes. “World War II previously meant epic battles such as the invasion of Normandy or the Battle of the Bulge. In his historical spy novels, from Night Soldiers to The Polish Officer to The World at Night to Dark Voyage, the writer considered a master of the atmospheric thriller charts the lives of ordinary and, sometimes, extraordinary people in Europe from 1933 to 1945 as they are overtaken by the tidal wave of war.

“Furst’s characters would rather be doing many other things than fighting fascists — making love in the twilight hours, dining at their favorite brasserie, ambling around Paris. On the whole, most would even rather be in Philadelphia, but for the fact that their antifascist politics, consciences, and sense of justice won’t allow them.”

The Wall Street Journal agrees: “Suspenseful and sophisticated . . . No espionage author, it seems, is better at summoning the shifting moods and emotional atmosphere of Europe before the start of World War II than Alan Furst. . . . Part of the allure of this exciting and moving novel is the way in which it shows Ferrar and other citizens persisting in their usual activities in the face of extraordinary circumstances.”

Alan Furst’s Top Ten List

* 1. Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T. E. Lawrence (1925).
2. A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell (1951–75).
3. Man’s Fate by André Malraux (1933).
4. Nightwood by Djuna Barnes (1936).
* 5. Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia by Rebecca West (1941).
6. Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler (1940).
7. Stories of Isaac Babel (1894–1940).
* 8. Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell (1940).
9. The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth (1932).
10. Kaputt by Curzio Malaparte (1944).
* Works of nonfiction that should be read as fiction.

New List

Francine Prose

1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877).
2. The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal (1839). (See below.)
3. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (1913–27).
4. The stories of Anton Chekhov (1860–1904).
5. The stories of John Cheever (1912–82).
6. The stories of Mavis Gallant (1922– ).
7. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851).
8. Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871–72).
9. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (1967).

 

Classic List

Amy Bloom

 

1. The Deptford trilogy by Robertson Davies (1983).
2.Persuasion by Jane Austen (1817).
3. His Dark Materialsby Philip Pullman (1995–2000).
4.The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields (1995).
5.The Known World by Edward P. Jones (2003).
6. The Beggar Maid by Alice Munro (1978).
7. The Plot Against Americaby Philip Roth.
8. The Hours by Michael Cunningham (1998).
9. Fancies and Goodnights by John Collier (1951).
10. Larry’s Party by Carol Shields (1997).

 

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