It is the late summer of 1938, Europe is about to explode, the Hollywood film star Fredric Stahl is on his way to Paris to make a movie for Paramount France. The Nazis know he's coming - a secret bureau within the Reich Foreign Ministry has for years been waging political warfare against France, using bribery, intimidation, and corrupt newspapers to weaken French morale and degrade France's will to defend herself.
For their purposes, Fredric Stahl is a perfect agent of influence, and they attack him. What they don't know is that Stahl, horrified by the Nazi war on Jews and intellectuals, has become part of an informal spy service being run out of the American embassy in Paris.
From Alan Furst, the bestselling author, often praised as the best spy novelist ever, comes a novel that's truly hard to put down. Mission to Paris includes beautifully drawn scenes of romance and intimacy, and the novel is alive with extraordinary characters: the German Baroness von Reschke, a famous hostess deeply involved in Nazi clandestine operations; the assassins Herbert and Lothar; the Russian film actress and spy Olga Orlova; the Hungarian diplomat and spy, Count Janos Polanyi; along with the French cast of Stahl's movie, German film producers, and the magnetic women in Stahl's life, the socialite Kiki de Saint-Ange and the émigré Renate Steiner.
But always at the center of the novel is the city of Paris, the heart and soul of Europe - its alleys and bistros, hotels grand and anonymous, and the Parisians, living every night as though it was their last. As always, Alan Furst brings to life both a dark time in history and the passion of the human hearts that fought to survive it.
Mission to Paris
In the 1930s, the Nazi government of Germany, bitterly
resentful at having lost the 1914 war, determined to
destroy its traditional enemy, France. Force of arms lay
in the future, but a small bureau in the Reich Foreign
Ministry undertook operations to weaken French morale
and degrade France's will to defend herself. This strategy,
using ancient and well- proven methods, was known as
In Paris, the evenings of September are sometimes warm, excessively gentle, and, in the magic particular to that city, irresistably seductive. The autumn of the year 1938 began in just such weather and on the terraces of the best cafés, in the famous restaurants, at the dinner parties one wished to attend, the conversation was, of necessity, lively and smart: fashion, cinema, love affairs, politics, and, yes, the possibility of war - that too had its moment. Almost anything, really, except money. Or, rather, German money. A curious silence,...
Furst brilliantly recreates the ominous environs, describing Paris, Berlin, and other locales just before the appeasement of Hitler via the Munich Agreement in September 1938 through the outbreak of the war. Between the risks of border-crossing, one character's struggle with the Gestapo, murder, and street disturbances,
Mission to Paris is rife with examples of the strain both ordinary and high-profile people endured.
(Reviewed by Karen Rigby).
Full Review (748 words).
Around 250-300 BCE, the capital of what is now known as France (or, more formally, The Republic of France) was established on the River Seine.
It was inhabited by an Iron Age Gallic tribe, the Parisii. In 52 BCE, it became a Roman settlement, known as Lutetia Parisiorum, and by approximately 300 CE was known as civitas Parisiorum, the precursor to the City of Paris.
Comprised of twenty arrondissements (administrative districts) arranged in an outward spiral from the city's center (see map at right), Paris includes two natural islands - Île de la Cité and Île Saint-Louis, both located on the Seine River. This "City of Light" boasts a population of over 10.4 million people in the greater metropolitan area (2009), ...
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