Summary and book reviews of Blood of Victory by Alan Furst

Blood of Victory

By Alan Furst

Blood of Victory
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Aug 2002,
    288 pages.
    Paperback: May 2003,
    288 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

"In 1939, as the armies of Europe mobilized for war, the British secret services undertook operations to impede the exportation of Roumanian oil to Germany. They failed.

Then, in the autumn of 1940, they tried again."


So begins Blood of Victory, a novel rich with suspense, historical insight, and the powerful narrative immediacy we have come to expect from bestselling author Alan Furst. The book takes its title from a speech given by a French senator at a conference on petroleum in 1918: "Oil," he said, "the blood of the earth, has become, in time of war, the blood of victory."

November 1940. The Russian writer I. A. Serebin arrives in Istanbul by Black Sea freighter. Although he travels on behalf of an émigré organization based in Paris, he is in flight from a dying and corrupt Europe—specifically, from Nazi-occupied France. Serebin finds himself facing his fifth war, but this time he is an exile, a man without a country, and there is no army to join. Still, in the words of Leon Trotsky, "You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you." Serebin is recruited for an operation run by Count Janos Polanyi, a Hungarian master spy now working for the British secret services.

The battle to cut Germany's oil supply rages through the spy haunts of the Balkans; from the Athenée Palace in Bucharest to a whorehouse in Izmir; from an elegant yacht club in Istanbul to the river docks of Belgrade; from a skating pond in St. Moritz to the fogbound banks of the Danube; in sleazy nightclubs and safe houses and nameless hotels; amid the street fighting of a fascist civil war.

Blood of Victory is classic Alan Furst, combining remarkable authenticity and atmosphere with the complexity and excitement of an outstanding spy thriller. As Walter Shapiro of Time magazine wrote, "Nothing can be like watching Casablanca for the first time, but Furst comes closer than anyone has in years."

On 24 November, 1940, the first light of dawn found the Bulgarian ore freighter Svistov pounding through the Black Sea swells, a long night's journey from Odessa and bound for Istanbul. The writer I. A. Serebin, sleepless as always, left his cabin and stood at the rail, searched the horizon for a sign of the Turkish coast, found only a blood red streak in the eastern sky. Like the old saying, he realized--red sky at morning, sailor take warning. But, a private smile for that. So many ways, he thought, to drown in autumn. The Svistov creaked and groaned, spray burst over the bow as she fought the sea. With cupped hands, Serebin lit a Sobranie cigarette, then watched the dark water churning past the hull until the wind drove him back to the cabin.

As he pulled the door shut, a soft shape stirred beneath the blanket. "Ah, mon ours," she said. My bear. A muffled voice, tender, half asleep. "Are we there?"

"No, not for a long time."

"Well then..." One side of the blanket rose ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The title Blood of Victory comes from a speech given by a French senator at a conference on oil in 1918: "Oil, the blood of the earth, has become, in time of war, the blood of victory." Describe the role that oil plays in Furst's novel. How would you say the relationship between oil and war has changed over time? Given America's relationship with the Middle East since World War II, to what extent would you say oil is now the cause of war?

  2. During Serebin's meeting with "Bastien" (Count Polanyi), Bastien describes the moral ambiguity of espionage in these terms: "People who trust you will get hurt. Is a dead Hitler worth it?" Consider Serebin's response to this question. What moral calculus must he ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews
The New Yorker

Densely atmospheric and genuinely romantic, the novel is most reminiscent of the Hollywood films of the forties, when moral choices were rendered not in black-and-white but in smoky shades of gray.

Publishers Weekly

Critics who thought Furst's previous novel Kingdom of Shadows lacked a clearly linear plot will find much to praise him for in his toothsome new historical espionage thriller....even newcomers will be ensnared by Furst's delicious recreations of a world sliding headlong into oblivion.

Library Journal - Barbara Hoffert

Most of the time, Serebin is in the dark, and so is the reader - a stylistic impulse that mimics the experience of World War II but can create some frustration and a sense of distance from the text. Nevertheless, Furst's spy work is some of the best around.

Booklist - Bill Ott

Starred Review. In some ways, this isn't Furst at his best the plot huffs and puffs its way to a climax on the Danube, where Serebin and some Resistance cohorts slug it out with the Nazis in an overly stage-managed brawl. But Furst creates mood and place so superbly that we really don't care if the action is less than top drawer. It's that teeming Balkans setting we're after, that sense that behind every cup of espresso, there is a plot to overthrow some government or other--and behind every plot there is a woman dressed in silk waiting to be caressed. That's what turns even the best cynics into soldiers, and that's why a Furst novel hardly needs a plot at all.

Reader Reviews
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Blood of Victory, try these:

  • Blind Man's Bluff jacket

    Blind Man's Bluff

    by Sherry Sontag

    Published Feb 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    An excellent history of U.S. submarine espionage operations that reads like a Tom Clancy novel.

  • Code To Zero jacket

    Code To Zero

    by Ken Follett

    Published Feb 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    Declared "a master" by Time magazine, Ken Follett returns with Code to Zero - a page-turning novel of suspense in the bestselling tradition of Eye of the Needle, The Key to Rebecca, and The Man from St. Petersburg.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    The Search
    by Geoff Dyer
    All hail the independent publisher! In May 2014, Graywolf Press brought two of long-revered British ...
  • Book Jacket
    Mrs. Hemingway
    by Naomi Wood
    Naomi Wood's latest novel, Mrs. Hemingway, is a fictionalized biography covering in turn writer...
  • Book Jacket
    The Stranger on the Train
    by Abbie Taylor
    The opening chapter of Abbie Taylor's debut novel, The Stranger on the Train, took me right back to ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The City
by Dean Koontz

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  93Tomlinson Hill:
    Chris Tomlinson

All Discussions

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.