Summary and book reviews of Dark Voyage by Alan Furst

Dark Voyage

By Alan Furst

Dark Voyage
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  • Hardcover: Aug 2004,
    272 pages.
    Paperback: May 2005,
    272 pages.

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Book Summary

"In the first nineteen months of European war, from September 1939 to March of 1941, the island nation of Britain and her allies lost, to U-boat, air, and sea attack, to mines and maritime disaster, one thousand five hundred and ninety-six merchant vessels. It was the job of the Intelligence Division of the Royal Navy to stop it, and so, on the last day of April 1941 . . ."

May 1941. At four in the morning, a rust-streaked tramp freighter steams up the Tagus River to dock at the port of Lisbon. She is the Santa Rosa, she flies the flag of neutral Spain and is in Lisbon to load cork oak, tinned sardines, and drums of cooking oil bound for the Baltic port of Malmö.

But she is not the Santa Rosa. She is the Noordendam, a Dutch freighter. Under the command of Captain Eric DeHaan, she sails for the Intelligence Division of the British Royal Navy, and she will load detection equipment for a clandestine operation on the Swedish coast–a secret mission, a dark voyage.

A desperate voyage. One more battle in the spy wars that rage through the back alleys of the ports, from elegant hotels to abandoned piers, in lonely desert outposts, and in the souks and cafés of North Africa. A battle for survival, as the merchant ships die at sea and Britain–the last opposition to Nazi German–slowly begins to starve.

A voyage of flight, a voyage of fugitives–for every soul aboard the Noordendam. The Polish engineer, the Greek stowaway, the Jewish medical officer, the British spy, the Spaniards who fought Franco, the Germans who fought Hitler, the Dutch crew itself. There is no place for them in occupied France; they cannot go home.

From Alan Furst–whom The New York Times calls America's preeminent spy novelist–here is an epic tale of war and espionage, of spies and fugitives, of love in secret hotel rooms, of courage in the face of impossible odds. Dark Voyage is taut with suspense and pounding with battle scenes; it is authentic, powerful, and brilliant.

UNDER SPANISH FLAG

In the port of Tangier, on the last day of April, 1941, the fall of the Mediterranean evening was, as always, subtle and slow. Broken cloud, the color of dark fire in the last of the sunset, drifted over the hills above the port, and streetlamps lit the quay that lined the waterfront. A white city, and steep; alleys, souks, and cafes, their patrons gathering for love and business as the light faded away. Out in the harbor, a Spanish destroyer, the Almirante Cruz, stood at anchor among the merchant steamers, hulls streaked with rust, angular deck cranes hard silhouettes in the dusk.

On board the tramp freighter Noordendam, of the Netherlands Hyperion Line, the radio room was like an oven and the Egyptian radio officer, known as Mr. Ali, wore only a sleeveless undershirt and baggy silk underdrawers. He sat tilted back in his swivel chair, smoking a cigarette in an ivory holder and reading a slim, filthy novel in beautifully marbled covers. From time to time, he ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. When he thinks he may be "blown to pieces" by a minesweeper's cannon, DeHaan decides that this would be "an honorable end"–preferable to interrogation and execution in Germany. How does DeHaan's notion of honor guide his actions throughout the novel? How would Kolb define honor? How would Maria Bromen?
  2. How does DeHaan express remorse? Does he ever show signs of vulnerability?
  3. Though brief, Patapouf's role in the novel is pivotal. How–if at all–does it alter DeHaan's attitude toward his mission? Why is Furst's brisk description of Patapouf so effective?
  4. Why does Furst devote his last paragraph ...
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Reviews

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   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
Library Journal - Barbara Conaty

With profound understanding of the historic panorama, Furst subtly evokes the emotional and mental highs that resided at that time, even within the most ordinary and anonymous of citizens. Fans will not be disappointed by this spare but never terse adventure tale.

Publishers Weekly

The book casts such a spell with its exact evocations of time, place and language that one could swear Furst was a Brit writing out of his own experience in 1941 rather than an American writing today.

Jonathan Yardley - The Washington Post

[Furst is] a serious writer, and his novels remind us that these days a great deal of exceptionally good American writing is being done in what the literati dismiss as popular fiction.

Janet Maslin - The New York Times

The Baltic action of Dark Voyage is so stunningly precise, intricate and dangerous (Dear God, let there be fog, DeHaan thinks) that the book's map of the region becomes essential reading. Skagerrak, Smygehuk, Liepaja, Falsterbo, Kronstadt these are the kinds of places that take on critical importance.

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Alan Furst's Books
I've read them all... you FEEL you are there, not just reading about it. Can't get enough.

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I do admire the WWII generation.  In general they seem to be made of sterner stuff than generations since.  This was brought home once again last summer when we were in England to celebrate my father's 80th birthday.  On the day of the party guests, most considerably older than him, arrived from far and wide, beetling along the narrow country roads in their cars.  It was tipping down with rain and they had to park in a field next to the house.  My finely tuned suburban instincts at the ready, I waited outside with an umbrella with the intention of offering a 'valet' parking ...

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