Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
- 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?
- 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 perform to answer this sort of
question? How would you respond to the same question?
- At lunch at the Hotel Helvetia, Kostyka proclaims, "For every man there
are three cities. The city of his birth, the city he loves, and the city where
he must live." Discuss this themes of alienation and exile as they appear in Blood
of Victory. Does Kostyka's pronouncement hold true for the characters in
- In Blood of Victory, I. A. Serebin finds himself facing the
prospect of his fifth war. Why doesn't Serebin want to fight again? Why does
he choose, ultimately, to fight? In the end, does it matter that he has?
- In an unguarded moment in the Tic Tac Club, Marie-Galante is shown to be a
French patriot. Would you say Serebin is a patriot? If so, for which nation? Is
Polanyi? Is Kostyka?
- Critics praise Furst's ability to re-create the atmosphere of World War
IIera Europe. What elements of description make the setting come alive? How
can you account for the fact that the settings seem authentic even though
you probably have no firsthand knowledge of the times and places he writes
- Furst's novels have been described as "historical novels," and as "spy novels." He calls them
"historical spy novels." Some critics have
insisted that they are, simply, novels. How does his work compare with other spy
novels you've read? What does he do that is the same? Different? If you owned
a bookstore, in what section would you display his books?
- Furst is often praised for his minor characters, which have been described
as "sketched out in a few strokes." Do you have a favorite in the book?
Characters in his books often take part in the action for a few pages and then
disappear. What do you think becomes of them? How do you know?
- At the end of an Alan Furst novel, the hero is always still alive. What
becomes of Furst's heroes? Will they survive the war? Does Furst know what
becomes of them? Would it be better if they were somewhere safe and sound, to
live out the end of the war in comfort? If not, why not?
- Love affairs are always prominent in Furst's novels, and "love in a
time of war" is a recurring theme. Do you think these affairs might last, and
lead to marriage and domesticity?
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Random House.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.