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10 thoughts on “Under Occupation

  1. Jeffrey Keeten Jeffrey Keeten says:

    ”I’ve read them all, by way of getting to know you. They’re good, Monsieur Ricard, The Waterfront Spy, The Odessa Affair, all of them, and you have something in common with Ambler. Your hero is not a detective, not a government agent. Like Ambler’s Latimer, he’s caught up in the politics of his time. One is sympathetic to Latimer, a rather stodgy college professor thrown into the middle of a secret operation because he writes romans policiers, his way of escaping academic publication. That’s what makes the Ambler novels good. I grew tired of policeman heroes, Simenon’s Maigret and Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie’s detective; I prefer the amateurs, like Latimer. And like you, Monsieur Ricard.”

    Paul Ricard is going about his life as best he can under the occupation of the Germans. He is still able to live in his beloved Paris, and he doesn’t want to live anywhere else. He spends most of his days working on his novels and his nights wrapped up in bedsheets with his lover, Romany. She, he suspects, is an aristocrat, possibly a countess, trying to stay out of the clutches of the Germans. Life, despite the circumstances, is pretty good for Ricard.

    It all changes when a dying man on the street thrusts a schematic into Ricard’s hands. The war has found him. #TheManWhoKnewTooMuch

    There are choices to be made. Is it best to wait for the Americans, or is it more important to do his part? His life is pretty good, better than most, so should he keep his head buried in the fantasy world he creates in his novels, or does he have an obligation to offer his help?

    He takes the schematic to the resistance, and his life quickly becomes far more interesting than his novels.

    I’ve been reading Alan Furst’s novels since I received a review copy of The World at Night. I wrote up a paragraph of why I liked the book and displayed it below the book. The book became a bestseller in our store for a couple of months (my first experience with the power of a review). We couldn’t keep it or his other books in stock. There is an insatiable need for the type of books Furst is writing. Each one is like watching an alternative version of the movie Casablanca.

    I devoured his books. They are sexy, exciting, lyrically written novels about normal people trying to do extraordinary things under remarkable circumstances.

    Given my long reading history with Alan Furst, it does pain me to say that some very important elements are missing from this novel. The plot is vintage Furst. I was practically having to wipe dripping saliva from my chin when I read that he was placing a writer of spy thrillers at the center of his new novel. All the pieces are here for another satisfying Furst experience, except it seems he himself is missing.

    If anyone knows if Furst has been kidnapped and replaced by an alien host body, please do inform me. I would appreciate knowing if he has permanently escaped to the South of France and just sent the outline of his novel to the publisher to be uploaded into a computer software program to write a simulation of a Furst novel. Something drastically went wrong.

    The book is short, barely breaking 200 pages. The writing is stilted and lacks all that lyrical, lush grace that I’ve come to expect from Furst. This feels like the outline of a novel, the first Furst draft without all those beautiful nuances that make his novels so enticing and fulfilling experiences. Any editor worth a pillar of salt should have read this and said, Alan, this is critically underwritten.

    Am I disappointed? Hell yes, I’m disappointed. I save Furst novels for when I need a mental boost of oozing, thrilling goodness. So, if you haven’t read a Furst novel, don’t begin here. Most people consider The Polish Officer to be one of his best novels, and I don’t disagree. See Furst at his best before you see him at his worst.

    I hope this is an anomaly and that the next Furst novel sees him back on top of his game.

    If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
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  2. Rachel Pollock Rachel Pollock says:

    This is the sixth novel of Alan Furst's that I've read, and it is my least favorite. The book reads like a draft which would be improved by further rounds of editing for character development (everyone is a cardboard cutout), location description (sometimes you can picture in your head where the events are happening, other times it's very disconnected), and weeding out goonish ogling at the bodies of all the female characters. I realize this is spy noir, but it's not told in the first person--the lasciviousness doesn't come off as a personality trait of the protagonist, rather the sexism of the narrative voice.

    It's unfortunate; i loved Dark Star and The World at Night, but if this is what passes for a Furst novel now, I'll content myself with the backlist.

    I received an ARC of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


  3. Tony Tony says:

    I wanted to wait a couple days before reviewing, just to let things simmer a bit before sharing my thoughts. I'll keep it short and sweet. This was my first historical thriller set in the World War II era and I rather enjoyed it. I won't get into a big summary of the story, you can read that from the book description or other reviews. To sum it up, the book is about Paul Ricard, a mystery/spy novel writer who gets tossed into the underground world of the French Resistance when a stranger shoves a piece of paper into his pocket before dying on the streets of Paris. He then is sent out on different missions to aid the Resistance movement and the Allies, with a cast of characters (many that he already knew) that are deep in the French Resistance.

    I thought the book gave a good overall look at the French Resistance during the German Occupation in World War II. To me, the book read more like a collection of short stories; a collection of spy missions that Paul Ricard undertook or sometimes was thrown into by his handlers. Some parts seemed to jump from one event to another with no real connection or flow. I did find some of the writing style a little irritating at times with incomplete sentence structure or long awkward sentences that I would have to re-read for it to make sense. This slowed down the action for me and would kill that thrilling page-turner buzz of mine. That is why I can not give this book 5 stars.

    However, I really did enjoy the story and the characters. The plot, mini-stories, and general spy intrigue kept me interested and definitely sparked a new interest in the World War II spy thriller. I just think the book read more like a first draft and wasn't quite polished yet. I will seek out more books by Alan Furst, based on some of the reviews I have read. If this is the least of his books, I can't wait to read his BEST. Just my 2 cents. :)


  4. Dan O& Dan O& says:

    The weakest of all of Furst's books. Reads like he is going through the motions. I have been a great fan of his work, but this and the previous three efforts are not a patch on Night Soldiers, or The Polish Officer or any of the rest. Even his writing style seems to have changed. Pity.


  5. Lynn Horton Lynn Horton says:

    I like Furst’s work, although this one isn’t my favorite. He has his own style, and it works really well with historic spy novels. He handles the “grit” well, and I never finish one of his novels feeling uplifted—but then again, I really shouldn’t.

    Under Occupation seems incomplete to me. It feels rushed and under-developed. Maybe I’ve read too many WW2 books of late (and I’ve pretty much declared a moratorium on them), but this story just ambles along and never really reaches a climax.

    Recommended, but read his other novels first.


  6. Alex Cantone Alex Cantone says:

    Under Occupation opens in Oct 1942, Paris has been under Nazi occupation for two years and Parisians go about their business as best they can with rationing, extra food sourced from the countryside, taxis converted to burn coal (oil is only available to the Germans), carrying papers issued by the SD (Sicherheitsdienst) – Nazi intelligence - controlling how and where they live and nightly curfews.

    Former journalist Paul Ricard writes detective/spy novels in a garret on Rue de la Huchette in the Latin Quarter, his life revolving around his writing, café life, his publisher Julien Montrésor, a friend Kasia, an émigré Pole who works in “The Bookshop” and his girlfriend/lover Romany - possibly a Hungarian aristocrat - who lives in a well-heeled area of Paris near the Pont d’Alma Métro. His life takes a sudden turn when a man in the street is shot by the Gestapo (always faceless men) and before dying, thrusts a folded piece of paper in Ricard's pocket. This proves to be the blueprint for a detonator for a torpedo – the German U-boats harassing the merchant shipping fleet. Through contacts the paper is smuggled into the hands of British intelligence, but then Ricard and Kasia are co-opted to helping the Resistance, through the exotic Leila, their undercover work taking them across France and into Germany to the Polish workers at the shipyards in Kiel.

    Author Alan Furst excels at portraying ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. The story unfolds as a series of vignettes, from October 1942 through to February 1944, when with their cover blown, they take to the escape lines and network of safe houses leading to Spain. In between there are acts of selflessness balanced by the greed of those profiteering from the war. I particularly liked how Furst captures the atmosphere of Paris.

    He opened the window and the street life of the city flowed in: barking dogs, mothers yelling gout of the window at their kids, the itinerant scissor sharpener calling out for customers, and that certain, very particular scent the city wore, compounded of age and dust and sewers and perfume and Gauloises smoke and potatoes frying in oil. Ricard inhaled deeply and knew he was home.

    I was also drawn in by the crowded trains and railway stations, the journey to Brussels curtailed as the RAF strafed the carriages, the foods and affaires de Coeur of people waiting for the occupation to end. Patchy in places - the line Kasia travelled west, crossing the frontier into Switzerland had my internal compass in a spin. From where???

    Not his best work (a little rushed to meet publishing deadlines?), but a fairly decent read at just over 200 pages.


  7. Gram Gram says:

    Nazi occupied Paris 1942 and a running man is gunned down in the street. Paul Ricard, a journalist turned crime writer, goes to his aid and the man slips him a single page drawing which turns out to be a schematic of a submarine torpedo's detonator. Ricard realises this may be of importance to the British and manages to contact the fledgling French Resistance and pass the document along.
    Gradually, Paul is drawn into working for the Resistance and the pace of the plot quickens as he becomes involved in more espionage activities, stealing documents and pieces of military equipment, monitoring the safe houses on an escape line from Paris though various towns to Spain and setting up a small Resistance cell to collect rifles and agents landed by Lysander plane in the French countryside.
    As the war begins to swing in the Allies favour, Paul and his comrades take more and more risks, sometimes close to arrest and death. Paranoia reigns as Resistance members aren't sure who they can trust. Meanwhile, in Britain the civil servants, men involved in the Special Operations Executive - the organisation set up in 1940 to conduct espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance in occupied Europe - send Paul on more dangerous missions.
    The tension becomes almost unbearable as we wonder if he and his closest friends will survive.
    The author effortlessly captures the atmosphere of wartime Paris with German occupying forces everywhere and French men and women divided in their loyalties - some are with the growing Resistance movement while others, especially many police officers, serve their Nazi masters.
    Strict curfews, food rationing, secrecy, fear and resentment seep from every page. This is yet another thrilling read from a master of gripping espionage fiction.


  8. Gene Ritchings Gene Ritchings says:

    I just finished this book in disgust. Understand something: I discovered Alan Furst's novels in 2001, read them consecutively right up to 'Under Occupation.' I've read each novel multiple times, they are some kind of essential spiritual nutrient, as great fiction can sometimes be, and Alan's novels of 1930s Europe in an uncanny way are predictive of the decay of America into fascism and a world of bullies vs. invertebrates. That said, 'Under Occupation' just made me sad. I started to worry about Alan with 'Midnight in Europe,' practically a spy novel of manners with a gun-running plot he's used before and a lack of the physical action he does so well, and shook my head at 'A Hero of France,' which contained a lot of familiar ideas and characters. If a writer starts recycling themself they can get away with it for awhile, but even if it's under the guise of 'Giving my fans the things they like' the writer risks becoming a predictable 'brand' with no new ideas, fresh characters, or surprises to impart. 'Under Occupation' is, as many have said, underdeveloped, short, and almost totally recycled Furst. I've seen Alan read in New York more than once, and more than once I've heard him point out, It was a very big war, assuring us he'd never run out of ideas. Well, I'd love to know Alan is looking elsewhere other than Paris for the next idea. I've also heard him say he doesn't do plots. That's very evident here. Oh, and one other thing. I HATE novels whose protagonists are novelists. It's always feels like a cheat.


  9. Stephen Stephen says:

    enjoyed this spy thriller based in 1940's France and was a page turner and kept me glued until the final pages


  10. Flo Flo says:

    It is hard for me to criticize one of my favorite writers, Alan Furst, who has been a favorite since his first book, Night Soldiers, came out in 1988. His latest, Under Occupation, comes nowhere near his earlier novels, which seem to get less interesting with each one.
    It is 1942 and the Germans are occupying Paris. Furst is excellent at atmosphere, but the tidbits he drops from time to time about life under the Germans are redundant; he's used them before. Even his writing is a bit clunky: in his first chapter he seems to be giving us a tour of Paris under occupation.
    Paul Ricard, a writer of thrillers, bumps into a man in a Paris Street who is being chased by the Gestapo. Before he dies the man thrusts a piece of paper into Ricard's pocket (I seem to have read that before too) thus pushing Ricard into the world of the Resistance and espionage. Soon he meets Leila, a member of the Resistance, and after a few escapades they enjoy the expected one night stand.
    Ricard's character is a cardboard cutout as is Leila's. He has one acquaintance, Kasia, a prostitute, who he had sex with in the past, but is now into girls. Kasia helps him and although he's a writer he seems to take to smuggling, hiding, stealing, and killing like a typical James Bond, being pretty successful and efficient. He has no brothers, sisters, parents, uncles, aunts, cousins. Leila claims she has family in Turkey; she turns up only once or twice during the whole book so if they are in love it is without passion or even emotion but a bit of cocaine spices up the sex. I gave it 3 stars. However, I am very disappointed. Is this what I waited 3 years for?


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Under Occupation ➬ [Ebook] ➧ Under Occupation By Alan Furst ➸ – Thomashillier.co.uk

From the master of espionage and intrigue, this novel about heroic resistance fighters in occupied Paris is based on true events of Polish prisoners in Nazi Germany, who smuggled valuabl From the master of espionage and intrigue, this novel about heroic resistance fighters inoccupied Paris is based on true events of Polish prisoners in Nazi Germany, who smuggled valuable intelligence to Paris and the resistance Occupied Paris in , a dark, treacherous city now ruled by the German security services, where French resistance networks are working secretly to defeat Hitler Just before he dies, a man being chased by the Gestapo hands off to Paul Ricard a strange looking drawing It looks like a part for a military weapon; Ricard realizes it must be an important document smuggled out of Germany to aid the resistance As Ricard is drawn deeper and deeper into the French resistance network, his increasingly dangerous assignments lead him to travel to Germany, and along the underground safe houses of the resistanceand to meet the mysterious and beautiful Leila, a professional spyAlan Furst has been called one of the best contemporary writers by David McCullough, and the most talented espionage novelist of our generation by Vince Flynn.