Wednesday, July 31, 2019

On the Coffee Table: The World at Night

Title: The World at Night
Author: Alan Furst
Image result for The World at Night Alan Furst
via Wikipedia
The World at Night is the fourth book in Alan Furst's Night Soldiers series, all spy novels following (for the most part) different protagonists in World War II Europe.  This time, our hero is Jean Casson, a film producer.  We join Casson's story just before the German occupation of Paris. 

The espionage portion of the tale is light.  He gets caught up in the game reluctantly and, in fact, his mission doesn't go too well.  For the most part, he's just trying to get along with his usual high society, playboy lifestyle in the context of the new, more restrictive and perilous political reality.  He worries about his Jewish friends but not as much as we, as readers with historical hindsight, know he should.  The spying is an inconvenient necessity more than a moral imperative.  Further complicating matters, he falls in love.

While this is not the book that would hook me into the rest of the series, it is an interesting addition to the broader canvas.  It makes sense that some of the spy work would be assigned to essential civilians who, in turn, would be likely to fail.  Furst is much better at setting than he is with character.  His war-stifled Paris is vivid, shockingly quiet for a city that normally never is:
Once upon a time they'd loved this hour in Paris; gold light spilling out on the cobbled streets, people laughing at nothing, whatever you meant to do in the gathering dark, you'd be doing it soon enough.  On theses boulevards night had never followed day - in between was evening, which began at the first fading of the light and went on as long as it could be made to last.
So too, his vision of northern France:  "The Vexin - above Paris along the river - was fighting country, rather bloodsoaked if you knew the history.  But then, people fought over beautiful things, a side of human nature that didn't quite have a name."

Unlike the rest of the series, the next book, Red Gold, continues the story of The World at Night.  It's not giving much away to say that the one story ends with some... ambiguity.  So, I am curious to know what happens next. 


  1. Replies
    1. It is, though the earlier books in the series are stronger.

  2. A series I would enjoy, I think, thank you :-)

  3. As I keep saying, one of these days, I'm going to read some spy stuff.
    I'll have to see what's available at the used book store the next time I take books out there.

    1. I like these but don't start here. Start with le Carre. He's the best.

    2. There or the Bourne series, because I think I have the first one of those around here somewhere.

    3. I haven't read those yet but I love the movies.