Friday, December 30, 2016

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: December 2016

Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the works they enjoyed most over the previous month.  Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.  If you wish to add your own review to the conversation, please sign on to the link list at the end of my post.

Title: Night Soldiers
Author: Alan Furst
via Amazon
Night Soldiers is the tale of Khristo Stoianev, a Bulgarian who is recruited by the NKVD, a precursor to the Soviet Union's KGB.  The book follows his path from his hometown on the Danube to training in Moscow to the Spanish Civil War to preoccupation Paris and beyond, covering the years 1934-45.  The story was meticulously researched and certainly piques my interest about the time period.  Once again, World War II proves to be a bottomless narrative treasure trove.  I feel the inspiration for Khristo's story might have come from Furst wondering how a Soviet spy could have survived Stalin's purges.

I enjoyed this one.  I appreciate the Soviet perspective on the espionage game.  Furst also does a nice job portraying the loneliness of the work and the occasional disappointment of not being able to tell people what you actually do for a living.  The language is frequently beautiful.  I love this passage describing 1937 Paris:
At first, the tide of secrecy that rippled through the streets had made him tense and watchful, but in time he realized that in a city of clandestine passions, everyone was a spy.  Amours.   Fleeting or eternally renewed, tender or cruel, a single sip or an endless bacchanal, they were the true life and business of a place where money was never enough and power always drained away.

I'm up for more.  Furst's Night Soldiers series now totals 14 books, all of them covering the spy game during this same time period.  Dark Star is the next installment.

Please join us and share your own review of your best read from the past month.  This month's link list is below.  I'll keep it open until the end of the day.  I'll post January's tomorrow.  Meetings are the last Friday of each month.  Next gathering is January 27th.


  1. That sounds interesting. And it has a great title.

  2. That is a great title. The 14 novels, are they a series, or do they cover different aspects of WWII espionage? Either way it sounds interesting.

    1. From what I can tell, each of the books involves different characters during the same time period.

  3. So, are these novelizations of real people's experiences? Or, are they compilations informed by research on a cadre of spies experiences?
    It sounds fascinating either way. I love historical fiction, and intrigues--obviously, most when they also include a (forbidden) romance.
    Happy New Year!
    Veronica :)

    1. They are novels - meticulously researched novels. The romantic/sexual intrigues that pop up are tame by your standards but they're in there.