Review: Operation Finisterre by Graham Hurley

finisterre

About the Author

Graham Hurley was born November, 1946 in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex. His seaside childhood was punctuated by football, swimming, afternoons on the dodgems, run-ins with the police, multiple raids on the local library plus near-total immersion in English post-war movies. He directed and produced documentaries for ITV through two decades, winning a number of national and international awards. He left TV and became full time writer in 1991. Graham is the author of a number of thrillers and crime novels.   Author website

About the Book

Publisher summary: Germany, October 1944 – Dozens of cities lie in ruins. Enemy armies are at the gates. For the Thousand Year Reich, time is running out. Desperate to avoid the humiliation of unconditional surrender, German intelligence launch Operation Finisterre – a last-ditch plan to enable Hitler to deny the savage logic of a war on two fronts and bluff his way to the negotiating table. Success depends on two individuals: Stefan Portisch, a German naval officer washed ashore on the coast of Spain after the loss of his U-boat, and Hector Gomez, an ex-FBI detective, planted by Director J. Edgar Hoover in the middle of the most secret place on earth: the American atomic bomb complex. Both men will find themselves fighting for survival as Operation Finisterre plays itself out.

400 pages, publication date October 2016

 My rating: 4 (out of 5)

I received an advance review copy courtesy of NetGalley and publisher, Head of Zeus, in return for an honest review.

This is an assured historical fiction/thriller set towards the end of World War II at the point where Germany is facing the prospect of defeat.  The novel is structured around two separate stories and it’s not until over two thirds of the way through the book that the connection between the two is made clear.  For me, the story set in Los Alamos was the more successful and compelling as ex-FBI detective, Hector Gomez investigates the apparent suicide of one of the scientist working on the atomic bomb project.  This has lots of twists and turns and the mystery of what has really occurred is sustained until the reveal in the final pages.  I found the parallel story of Stefan Portisch less convincing as there were a number of convenient occurrences and the connection with the Los Alamos story I didn’t feel was that crucial in the end.   An enjoyable read with some interesting historical detail that was clearly well-researched but, in the end, left me wishing to have been slightly more satisfied with how the two strands came together.

In three words: Thriller, compelling, well-researched

 

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Review – Nelly Dean: A Return to Wuthering Heights by Alison Case

nelly-dean

Authentically voiced retelling of Wuthering Heights

About the Book

(Courtesy of Goodreads):  Nelly Dean is a wonderment of storytelling and an inspired accompaniment to Emily Bronte’s adored work. It is the story of a woman who is fated to bear the pain of a family she is unable to leave, and unable to save.

My Review

I started reading this book back in November and the fact that I’ve only just finished it but have read over a dozen other books in the meantime, tells you I didn’t find it as compelling as I hoped or the author deserves given the obvious craft put into it. The book expands on the narration by Nelly Dean, the housekeeper at Wuthering Heights, in Emily Bronte’s original book and introduces imagined back stories for some of the characters, notably Hindley, Hareton and Nelly herself .

However, although it magnifies some aspects of Wuthering Heights (in some instances, quite exhaustively) it glosses over large parts of others, in particular the core relationship between Heathcliff and Cathy and the tragic events that surround them. For this reason, I don’t really see it as a standalone novel for a reader who is unfamiliar with Wuthering Heights.   For example, Alison Case devotes a substantial section to Nelly’s attempts to care for the infant Hareton that are encapsulated in a few sentences in the original book. But on the other hand, leaps forward at points so that key events from Wuthering Heights are merely alluded to.

So I found myself on the one hand thinking, “I know all this from Wuthering Heights” and on the other, “Wait a minute, we’ve skipped several years here – what happened to so-and-so”.  Plus, occasionally thinking, “Whoa, I bet Emily Bronte never had that in mind!”. Having said all this, the author has created a really authentic period voice for all her characters and if it wasn’t that Emily Bronte’s masterpiece is a persistent and relentless echo, this would be a really successful piece of historical fiction.

But…it has made me determined to go back and re-read Wuthering Heights!

Book facts: 456 pages, published February 2016

My rating: 3.5 (out of 5)

In three words: Authentic, descriptive, inventive

Try something similar…Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, tour-de-force reimagining of Jane Eyre

About the Author

Alison Case is a Professor at Williams College in Massachusetts and her academic background has focused on Victorian Studies, Narrative Theory, and Gender Studies. Her first book, Plotting Women: Gender and Narration in the 18th and 19th-Century British Novel, is well-known and well respected. With these interests, it’s not a surprise that Case’s first novel focuses on a well-known literary character from Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.