June 1939. In a hotel room overlooking Piccadilly Circus, two young men are arrested. One is court-martialled for "conduct unbecoming"; the other is deported home to Germany for "re-education" in a brutal labour camp. They must each make a difficult choice, and then live with the consequences.
April 2012. A British diplomat, held hostage in an Afghan cave for eleven harrowing years, is unexpectedly freed. He returns to London to find his wife is dead. Numb with grief, he attempts to re-build his life and answer the questions that are tormenting him. Was his wife's death an accident? Who paid his ransom? And how is his release linked to what his father did in the Second World War?
©2013 Nigel Farndale (P)2013 Isis Publishing Ltd
Absolutely. Nigel Farndale is a first class writer and the narration was excellent.
The ending ruined my entire reading experience. After building up an achingly beautiful romance between two men during WWII it felt like the writer had chickened out of an EM Forster style happy ending and instead plumped for schlocky twists and turns and a woefully unbelievable, inappropriate and borderline offensive finish. The writer is clearly not a gay man as two of his protagonists turned bisexual in the last couple of chapters. Nevermind that they'd spent 5 years and an entire war waiting for each other. Utter tosh!
Goodness me no, the last two chapters need re-writing however.
A beautifully written novel. The subject matter is sometimes brutal, sometimes filled with anguish, but written with such an engaging sensitivity, that draws you in and holds you tight.
I would listen to Jonathan Keeble again, but I wouldn't read another novel by Nigel Farndale.
There seemed to be no substance to this book. The narratives in the novel relate to hostage-taking in Afghanistan, a Nazi concentration-camp, and incestuous desire, among other things. My impression is that these big topics were supposed to supply a kind of gravitas, something that could pass for depth. However the only thing profound about the book in my reading of it was its dreary, cliched triviality. I eventually gave up about four fifths of the way through and felt relieved to have done so.
Usually an easy voice to listen to. Good pace, clear articulation.
I'd have cut all of it.
I feel a bit bad being so negative about this book. Clearly there are others who really like the book, judging by reviews on Amazon and here. I guess Nigel Farndale is sufficiently successful not to be very much concerned by the negative reaction of the occasional reader.
I love history, crime and thrillers, biographies and almost anything by the BBC.
This is the narration of two parrallel stories the first one of Charles a young graduate of the Slade Art School in 1938 who has joined also joined up in anticipation of the coming War. He is involved in a relationship with Anselm also a student of the Art school, but a German. While pondering what they can do about their love in the face of the coming war they are arrested and Anselm is deported back to Germany and Charles discharged. At this point the narration of the second story begins which concerns the son of Charles, Edward. Edward has just returned from Afghanistan where he was held hostage for over ten years and this story is situated in the present.
At first I was so absorbed in the story of Charles I felt it was an intrusion to have to follow the story of Edward but as the book went on alternating between the two I became more engrossed in both stories. The story of Charles is the more captivating as he lived in dangerous times and his war life was one of action with many events happening to him and also to Anselm who was imprisoned in a German prisoner camp mainly for political prisoners in Alsace on what was French soil. His one guiding principle is his love for Anselm and his determined resolution to save him. Being a hostage Edward describes it as ten years of nothing happening except trying not to go insane and struggling to survive in the face of gross neglect and lonliness. His love of his wife and daughter helped him through the long struggle. His story is also one of love and its mysterious power.
There is also a mystery around the payment of the ransom for Edward's release which links up to the past life of Charles and reveals things to Edward which he had never known about.
The one aspect of the narration I found difficult was that when Edward begins to recover he finds himself falling in love with his daughter - mainly because of her close resemblance to her mother who had committed suicide once she thought Edward had died as a hostage. I did not like the return of his sexual feelings being focused in this way but in all fairness neither does Edward so he has to renounce his proximity to her and leave her to get on with her own life. He discovers that his father had to renounce love from a sense of duty also.
The narrator is absolutely splendid and without his excellent performance I am sure I would not have become so absorbed and engaged in the narration.
I was totally enthralled by this story. The narrator was excellent and I looked forward to each installment. I think I enjoyed the story more by listening to it than I would have done by reading the book.
Both timescales, probably the WWII scenes best.
It is difficult to choose among so many diverse scenes.
I was uncomfortable in the parts concerning Charles's feelings for Hannah.
I have read The Blasphemer by the same author and rate that book very highly too.
Any love story, set in a war, when the lovers are separated by two warring countries......... But with a difference
Can't choose one, I enjoyed the whole book
I didn't want my car journey to end each day, I enjoyed listening to it so much. The ironing was done too quickly too, but I was quite sad when the book finished.
I used references to the historical story in my year 8 tutor time, and they, like me were shocked and surprised by the treatment of the Germans to their own, during the war.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It gave much insight into history of the second world war from an interesting perspective of a bisexual man (Charles Northcote) of the era as well as modern day issues in the telling of Edward Northcote's story . The author had realistic characters who conveyed great depth of feeling and real substance to the way humans will react in extreme circumstances.
The understanding of human nature and the variety of characters
Both Edward and Charles Northcote
When Charles Northcote finally finds Anshelm in the camp was the most moving of a number of events that I found moving
Hungry for kowledge!
The atmosphere was dense and engaging. The characters were well described and their feelings were realistic and moving.
Anselm, it was really moving you.
Maybe not all in one, but for sure was making you looking forward to the next chapter.
Jonathan Keeble is simply exceptional. He can make the characters so alive that you almost feel like you are watching a movie. English not being my mother tongue, Keeble reads with such a clarity that you cannot miss a word.
"simply excellent on all levels"
I simply can't say, being a biblio-vore my preferred method of any book is that of being read to.
As the story developed I had more than one favourite character as the novel offered the reader a plethora of values with which the reader could align or identify him or herself with.
I have listened to several of Jonathan Keeble's narrations as he is one of my favourite readers but he simply excelled in his faultless narration of this wonderful book
indeed I did just that very thing as I couldn't stop listening..... and I was sad when the book ended a sure way of judging a personal winner
For anyone who loves a well developed story-line coupled with faultlessly researched details then Nigel Farndale is the writer for you. Farndale also manages to present the reader / listeners with their personal inner dialogues concerning value judgements. I actually sent an email via this writers web page in praise of his writing.
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