January 24, 2022


Robert Harris


(January 24, 2022)

Reimagining the Munich Agreement of 1938, seen here with as much sympathy for Neville Chamberlain as it is possible to muster and narrated from the perspectives of two minor diplomatic officials — one British, one German — who had known each other at Oxford. Critics were unusually skeptical of this Robert Harris foray, which confronts structural difficulties with an array of suspense-generating machinery, much of which doesn’t quite work. Harris has a point: if war was coming, it might have been better to delay it — though not, of course, better for the millions of Nazi victims who might have escaped. I’m not wild that the minor character who represents The Jews has been so bludgeoned and damaged that she is silenced. Still, a fine and readable historical novel in which a collection of villains meet: if Chamberlain did not rise to the occasion, he was far from the worst.