Friday, October 11, 2013

Mission to Paris by Alan Furst

Have you noticed that all of Alan Furst’s World War II espionage books have similar titles? Dark Something, Night Something, Mission to Somewhere, Spies of This or That. And some books are meant to be read in order and others stand alone. How do you keep them straight, or know where to start? I wasted a lot time dithering over whether I was supposed to start with Night Soldiers or The World at Night until someone told me it didn’t matter, so I started with this one.

Mission to Paris is Furst’s most recent book, published in 2012, and as it turns out, it’s as good a place as any to dive in to his work. And did I like it? Yes! It’s about an actor who goes to Paris to make a film in the late 1930’s and gets caught up in some nasty business with the Germans and their French sympathizers. Imagine Cary Grant as the actor—no one contemporary will do. There’s danger, but not too much, very little blood, some intrigue, but nothing that’s too difficult to keep track of. Furst’s writing is smooth and sophisticated, understated and confident. Just like Cary Grant.

I could complain a little about Furst’s proclivity for the male gaze (lots of luscious descriptions of beautiful women’s bodies, sex scenes always written from the man’s point of view). In an ideal world an author this good would recognize that not all of his readers are straight men. Especially since he has no trouble giving these delicious women lots of interesting things to do. It’s almost like he doesn’t even realize he’s doing it, since he’s obviously making a good-faith effort to create women characters who have brains and agency. When I complained about this to a long-time Furst fan, she said, philosophically, “oh, just roll your eyes and keep reading.” That’s a pretty good advice.

(Book 27, 2013)


Anna said...

Yeah, sometimes you just have to go with the flow. :) I've only read one Furst novel (Spies of Warsaw) and really enjoyed it. Great review!

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