Genre(s) | Historical Fiction, Espionage
Goodreads Rating | 3.89
Humpo Show Rating | 3.25
Publisher: Arrow Publishing
Thank you to Arrow Publishing for sending me the paperback version of Munich for review.
Robert Harris regales the story of the 1938 Munich Agreement between Germany, Britain, France and Italy. Europe is on the precipice of another war. Adolf Hitler has begun acquiring areas of neighbouring countries, citing their Germanic history, in order to build a stronger homeland. Harris weaves together the events of history with some background fiction as he tells the story of two men, one German and one English, who play roles in the final meeting between Chamberlain and Hitler in 1938, when peace was still a possibility.
Chamberlain has used diplomacy and concessions in order to engineer a last-ditch peace conference to save Czechoslovakia from a German annihilation, our two protagonists Hugh Legat and Paul von Hartmann find themselves in Munich, ready to do whatever they can.
The perspective is strong, Harris intricately details the clerical and discourse of the British establishment and the German Foreign Ministry, and in some way the use of details and the history books constrains the narrative as not enough excitement or thrills occur. Hartmann cuts a quite mysterious figure and is single-minded in his approach to politics and life, though he is caught up in such a deceptive political situation that there is little hope of anything clear and forthright coming from the German camp. Hartmann spends the entirety of the novel trying to avoid being discovered, as he is sure that being uncovered would mean a trip to the concentration camps, or worse.
Harris adds numerous other characters, both fictitious and historical, to the mix, and as the plot progresses with both delegations meeting in Munich, we see what both sides are pushing for, and their own outcome becomes a little clearer. The plot of the story is one torn centred in history, but by adding dialogue and some ‘behind the curtain’ backstory it enriches the reader’s experience. And to further ramp the stakes up, Harris tells the tale over a four-day period that compartmentalises the events and shows just how intense things got over the course of a few days that are part of European history.
Munich is a fantastic commentary of the Munich Agreement of 1938, the research for the book is astounding in that the process that occurs in the corridors of Downing Street and within the Nazi Regime come firmly to the fore. The two protagonists come across as believable characters in their respective occupations, and the spy-work is reminiscent of le Carre’s given that there is a focus on deception and tense, rather than the flashy and gadget-filled James Bond novels from Fleming. Although the novel lacks the edge-of-the-seat action that usually accompanies spy novels, Sauer’s character is perhaps the most threatening, but even his appearances are brief, Munich does maintain my interest as I wonder how long the deception will hold. The strength of the history is it’s greatest strength and also it’s greatest weakness.