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Naturally, the whole book is entirely depressing, depression being the keynote of Hitlerian fantasias; its leading tones were struck earlier by Orwell's 1984 and le Carr‚'s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Harris's novel is set in 1964—Germany has won WW II, and this is the weekend of Hitler's 75th birthday, with huge celebrations ready to blow. After defeating Russia, Germany has formed a European trading bloc with 12 Western nations; German is the second language in all schools; everyone drives German cars, watches German TV, and so on. Switzerland alone is neutral, afloat on the Wehrmacht's stalemate in its cold war with the US. Tying in with Hitler's birthday is the announcement that—to reinforce detente between the two countries—US President Joseph P. Kennedy has been invited to Berlin. But that detente is threatened by the murders of two retired high officials, and Xavier March, homicide investigator with the Berlin Kriminalpolizei, lands the job of tracking down the killers. March is divorced and disaffected, and his ten-year-old son hates him for not being a super-Nazi like himself. Just as March is getting ahead in the case, he is taken off it by Globus, a top pig in the Gestapo. But March is too far in to stop. And he's fallen in with the beautiful American journalist "Charlie" Maguire, a smart and feisty woman who's always ready to prick March's Nazi chauvinism. The big secret: March has stumbled on the great Nazi coverup of the gas chambers, with ghastly proofs of it hidden in a numbered Swiss account.
Farsighted readers know that massive dystopian evil such as Winston Smith faced in 1984 can provide no happy end. But only a Schweinehund wouldn't like this springtime for Hitler, with its waltzes through the Holocaust to the tunes of Lehr's The Merry Widow.
Thick cloud had pressed down on Berlin all night, and now it was lingering into what passed for the morning. On the city's western outskirts, plumes of rain drifted across the surface of Lake Havel like smoke.
Sky and water merged into a sheet of gray, broken only by the dark line of the opposite bank. Nothing stirred there. No lights showed.
Xavier March, homicide investigator with the Berlin Kriminalpolizei — the Kripo — climbed out of his Volkswagen and tilted his face to the rain. He was a connoisseur of this particular rain. He knew the taste of it, the smell of it. It was Baltic rain from the north, cold and seascented, tangy with salt. For an instant he was back twenty years, in the conning tower of a U-boat, slipping out of Wilhelmshaven, lights doused, into the darkness.
He looked at his watch. It was just after seven in the morning.
Drawn up on the roadside before him were three other cars. The occupants of two were asleep in the drivers' seats. The third was a patrol car of the Ordnungspolizei — the Orpo, as every German called them. It was empty.
Through its open window came the crackle of static, sharp in the damp air, punctuated by jabbering bursts of speech. The revolving light on its roof lit up the forest beside the road: blue-black, blue-black, blue-black.
March looked around for the Orpo patrolmen and saw them sheltering by the lake under a dripping birch tree. Something gleamed pale in the mud at their feet. On a nearby log sat a young man in a black tracksuit, SSinsignia on his breast pocket. He was hunched forward, elbows resting on his knees, hands pressed against the sides of his head — the image of misery.
March took a last draw on his cigarette and flicked it away. It fizzed and died on the wet road.
As he approached, one of the policemen raised his arm.
March ignored him and slithered down the muddy bank to inspect the corpse.
It was an old man's body — cold, fat, hairless and shockingly white. From a distance, it could have been an alabaster statue dumped in the mud. Smeared with dirt, the corpse sprawled on its back half out of the water, arms flung wide, head tilted back. One eye was screwed shut, the other squinted balefully at the filthy sky.
"Your name, Unterwachtmeister?" March had a soft voice. Without taking his eyes off the body, he addressed the Orpo man who had saluted.
"Ratka, Herr Sturmbannführer."
Sturmbannführer was an SS title, equivalent in Wehrmacht rank to major, and Ratka — dog tired and skin soaked though he was — seemed eager to show respect. March knew his type without even looking around: three applications to transfer to the Kripo, all turned down; a dutiful wife who had produced a football team of children for the Führer; an income of 200 Reichsmarks a month. A life lived in hope.
"Well, Ratka," said March in that soft voice again. "What time was he discovered?"
"Just over an hour ago, sir. We were at the end of our shift, patrolling in Nikolassee. We took the call. Priority One. We were here in five minutes."
"Who found him?"
Ratka jerked his thumb over his shoulder.
The young man in the tracksuit rose to his feet. He Could not have been more than eighteen. His hair was cropped so close the pink scalp showed through the dusting of light brown hair. March noticed how he avoided looking at the body.
"SS-Schütze Hermann Jost, sir." He spoke with a Saxon accent — nervous, uncertain, anxious to please. "From the Sepp Dietrich training academy at Schlachtensee." March knew it: a monstrosity of concrete and asphalt built in the 1950s, just south of the Havel. "I run here most mornings. It was still dark. At first I thought it was a swan," he added helplessly.
Ratka snorted, contempt on his face. An SS cadet seared of one dead old man! No wonder the war in the Urals was dragging on forever.
"Did you see anyone else, Jost?" March spoke in a kindly tone, like an uncle.
"Nobody, sir. There's a telephone booth in the picnic area, half a kilometer back. I called, then came here and waited until the police arrived. There wasn't a soul on the road."
March looked again at the body. It was very fat. Maybe 110, kilos.
"Let's get him out of the water." He turned toward the road. "Time to raise our sleeping beauties." Ratka, shifting from foot to foot in the downpour, grinned.
It was raining harder now, and the Kladow side of the take had virtually disappeared. Water pattered on the leaves of the trees and drummed on the car roofs. There was a heavy rain-smell of corruption: rich earth and rotting vegetation. March's hair was plastered to his scalp, water trickled down the back of his neck. He did not notice. For March, every case, however routine, held — at the start, at least — the promise of adventure.
He was forty-two years old — slim, with gray hair and coot gray eyes that matched the sky. During the war, the Propaganda Ministry had invented a nickname for the men of the U-boats — the "gray wolves" — and it would have been a good name for March in one sense, for he was a determined detective. But he was not by nature a wolf, did not run with the pack, was more reliant on brain than on muscle, so his colleagues called him "the Fox" instead.
He flung open the door of the white Skoda and was hit by a gust of hot, stale air from the car heater.
"Morning, Spiedel!" He shook the police photographer's bony shoulder. "Time to get wet." Spiedel jerked awake. He gave March a glare.
1. Did you find the alternative history of Fatherland convincing? If so, what details strengthened that conviction?
2. 'Fatherland works on all levels' -- Washington Post. What do you think this means? How do you think Fatherland works best?
3. Do you think Robert Harris's portrayal of women effectively reflects the society he has created?
4. 'History is told through the eyes of the victor.' How does this statement apply to Fatherland?
5. 'You're an irony yourself, March, in a way... We set out to breed a generation of supermen to rule an empire...we trained them to apply hard fact -- pitilessly, even cruelly...And what happens? A few of you...begin to turn this pitiless clear thinking on us...' (page 240). What other ironies do you think there are in Fatherland?
6. How does the theme of deception work in the novel?
7. Do you think Xavier March had a fatal flaw? If so, what was it?
Posted December 23, 2003
This was a very good book and I'd reccomend it to anyone. HOWEVER, the general topic of the book and even THINKING of the Nazi's having won the War brings much sadness and distress. Nonetheless, one should read it for it's entertainment value
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Posted May 16, 2014
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Posted July 15, 2005
If you can stomach the awful ideas of what this could have been, The victory of this evil regime, it's a good read. I found it entertaining and interesting but personally most upsetting. I also disagree with the author that something like this could have been kept a secret.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 19, 2004
In ¿Fatherland,¿ Harris paints a fascinating picture of a Europe as it might have been reshaped and defined by German victory at the end of World War II. It takes place in 1964, when Hilter's 75th birthday approaches. The story unfolds against the backdrop of preparations for this great event - which will include a visit to Berlin by none other than President Kennedy - President JOSEPH Kennedy, that is. The story takes us from a run of the mill accidental death to a crime that could bring an end to the existence of this perfectly-modeled Aryan society, not to mention world harmony. Caught in the midst of this maelstrom, a German officer struggles with his conscience. And with his love for an American journalist, threatened by powerful forces that want to sustain the existing power. The novel intrigues by reminding us, in a sinister way, that history is written by the winning side. And I liked the ending, as well: it may not be happy, but it is uplifting.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 25, 2003
FATHERLAND is a tale of homocide, government conspiracy and romance that will make the reader ask, " what if? " Set in Hitler's Greater Germania of 1964, the story uses the names and histories of real people from the W.W.II era, and gives a vision of the world that might have been had the Nazis been ultimate victors in Europe.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 9, 2003
This story was truly unique and amazingly entertaining. I was glued to the pages almost instantly and could not wait to get back to it after I put it down. It also had a very climatic ending. I highly recomend this book. I wish Robert Harris would or could write more books on a regular basis.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 25, 2002
I thought this book was a great read. Robert Harris is a great story teller. The book will have you thinking way after the last pages have been read. A sure to please novel!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 17, 2002
I could not put the book down for even a second...Fatherland is expertly written with a cool alternative history, classic romance, and a plot that twists and turns. This would make a great movie. If you're like me who enjoys books and films about World War II and Nazis...pick up this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 25, 2002
I agree with what the previous reviewers have said. I enjoyed this book even though, in some sense, it must be said that the topic is somewhat depressing. I wrote this review only to note how well the book creates an atmosphere. When you finish a chapter its hard to remember you don't live in Germany.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 31, 2001
I found this book increadable, robert harris manages to portry a fictional world in a non-fiction book. All the characters and events seemed so real i have choose to study for my school RPR.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 23, 2000
what an extraordinary read ths was! i throughly enjoyed this book from cover to cover and recommend 'fatherland' to anyone looking for a great thought-provocating mystery novelWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 7, 2000
I would give this book 5 stars because its juct so damn good! Harris creates a powerful and detailed image of Nazi society in the 1960's. I alos recommend Archangel because whereas Fatherland delt with how Hitler didn't write any of his orders down, Archangel deals with the fact that Stalin did. Rob Harris is a great writer. BUY IT!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 28, 2000
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Posted January 10, 2000
Harris has written a very good 'what-if' Novel, he writes with a great touch and notices little details which make the book highly interesting. The characters are realistic and their motions even more. This thriller will hold the readers attention until the end. Only one thing disturbed me; In the end, Harris points out what really happened to some of the REAL charcaters he has used in his book, there´s no mentioning on the humane acts which Dr. Stuckart carried out during the war risking his own life.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 2, 2011
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Posted November 11, 2008
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Posted December 27, 2008
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