The Great Swindle

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The Great Swindle by Pierre Lemaitre, is a fascinating novel, which is read with big eyes, cocked up ears and the soul in your mouth.

Target audience?  Everybody who loves the beginning of the 20th  century, those who are passionate about history, those who adore France, but also those who appreciate an agile, flowing and extremely thrilling literary style.

Where and when? France, right after the First World War ended.

Strong points? The sensational characters, the gripping writing, the dashing and stunning rhythm, without falling into the trap of ordinary suspense. The traumas of those who survived the First World War combined with a huge and flabbergasting swindle, but also with a terrifying and rapacious greed build up toward an exceptional reading.

Weak points? I don’t remember any as a matter of fact.

Favorite characters? Albert, Edouard and Pradelle (whose infamy and abjection hit you so hard that you can barely stand).

Convince me! The swindle around the cemeteries will make your jaw drop. You will recognize a special type of cynicism and foul play, which are easily found in nowadays society, too!

Bonus? The detective like thread combined with drops of philosophy on life turn this book into something unique, almost impossible to duplicate.

Stars? 9 plus.

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HHhH

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HHhH by Laurent Binet, has represented for me one of the biggest literary surprises in the last years.

Target audience?  Those in love with history, those who wish to hear the truth from a writer who really knows his pen, but also those who let themselves wooed by novels like The Book Thief and who need ASAP a cold shower. We are not allowed to forget reality. And, if for this, you need to get off your fluffy and pink clouds, then so be it.

Where and when? Prague, towards the end of the Second World War.

Strong points? The exceptional writing style, the author’s magnificent interventions in the story (you almost feel how he touches you when you forget about him), the incredible events in which the three brave heroes are involved, Binet slapping you at the end of the chapters and the way your heart and soul is soaring long time after that. Sometimes, a simple sentence can put you down mercilessly. The major impact on everything you thought you knew about Nazism, Heydrich, Hitler, Jews and the horrific events of those times.

Weak points? The slightly superior omniscience of the author which may bother the recalcitrant natures. I said “may”.

Favorite characters? The Author, Prague, and the extraordinary and unforgettable trio: Gabcik, Kubis and Valcik.

Convince-me! “When I look at the news, when I read the newspaper, when I meet people, when I see my friends or some acquaintances, I tell myself the world is ridiculous, thrilling and cruel. The same goes for this book: the story is cruel, the heroes, thrilling, while I am ridiculous. But I am in Prague.”

Bonus? The scene in the church where 7 people withstand 800 SS soldiers reaches such a perfection, that you wouldn’t believe this is a fragment from a debut novel.

Stars? 9 plus to 10.

The Book

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Of course my first proper review couldn’t start but with what I call “The Book”.

More precisely, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

Target audience? Anybody.

Where and When? Barcelona, 1945 – 1955.

Strong points? The style which makes you lick your fingers (and the author’s, too), the sensational humor, the story within the story (where books are on a high pedestal and they can make the difference between life and death), the mystery, the Gothic, which warms up even the tiniest corner of your soul, nostalgia, and, oh, love…in all its shapes: exuberant, salacious, obsessive, magic.

Weak points? I chop off your head, if you find any. 😀

Favorite characters? All of them. Special mention though for Fermin Romero de Torres!

Convince me! “Man…heats up like a lightbulb: red hot in the twinkling of an eye and cold again in a flash. The female, on the other hand…heats up like an iron. Slowly, over a low heat, like tasty stew. But then, once she has heated up, there’s no stopping her.”

Bonus? “There’s no such thing as dead languages, only dormant minds.”

Stars? Maximum possible in my personal rating: 10