Review of V2 by Robert Harris

V2: A Novel of World War II by Robert Harris

My rating: 6 of 10 stars

A decent read. Tight and enjoyable, with a decent amount of suspense in the narrative to keep you going.

It’s a short novel that reads like a short novel, much like Munich. Through the creation of a group of fictional characters, Harris enlivens a real-life drama and well-known actors during the bombardment of London and Antwerp during the waning days of WWII. Two intertwined personal stories (Kate and Graf) are set against the broader episode of the development of Nazi rocket technology and the British battle to combat it is quick. It allows for the elaboration of related events outside of the short 4-day timeframe of the novel.

I am glad to have read the novel and appreciated Harris’ creativity in superimposing Kate and Graf’s individual stories. They encompass the frustrations of war-weariness and personal tragedy, with the vicissitudes of fate shaping the lives of those caught up in the maelstrom of the war. However, the short length of the novel forces the author to do very rapid character development and unfortunately, there is little time to develop any empathy or sympathy for them. The gradual spinning of the tale goes a length towards explaining the protagonists seemingly well established and sometimes extreme actions and reactions. In case of the Graf especially, the reader may question the shifts from resolute altruistic action and otherwise a bitter ennui. Although inexplicable within the space of the novel, one is forced (and almost willing) to allow the author the gaps in backstory and accept that there is a deeper untold story.

In the end, enjoyable, but there is a sense of wanting more – as there was with Munich. The author does not claim a wider narrative nor more than what is delivered. Still, one cannot help but express and appreciation for his style and hope for a more extended, more in-depth and ultimately more satisfying treatment, such as that offered in An Officer and the Spy.

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