Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fatherland by Robert Harris

Fatherland SUMMARY (from Goodreads): In this painstakingly detailed and chillingly plausible parallel world, Hitler still lives, the U.S. seeks detente with the Third Reich, an important Nazi official is murdered, and a German investigator and a pretty American journalist set out to unravel a conspiracy.


I was unable to put this book down, literally. I finished it in one day, reading far into the night. It overwhelmed me. It gave me a nightmare. It made me feel sick. But that is fine. It would be something terribly wrong with me as a human being if I had not reacted that way.

I was firstly attracted to start reading Fatherland by its science fiction premise of Germany winning WW II. Harris outlines a frighteningly believable version of what the world would be like had the history tuned out differently.

Harris depicts many historical personages in Fatherland, and though he changes their endings, those are highly probable. His fictional characters are just as life-like as the actual people he writes about.

Xavier March is an SS detective. He is a pedantic workaholic who is dissatisfied with the perfectly ordained life and uses every loophole in the system to feel at least a little bit free. He gets a divorce, he refuses to join the Nazi party, and he does not attend rallies if not obligated. He finds the only satisfaction in his work, trying to uncover the truth behind the crimes. This is the reason why he does not just walk away from the case as ordered but decides to follow suspicious evidence, not knowing he stumbled upon something that can get him killed.

Charlotte (Charlie) is a young American newspaper correspondent in Berlin, who gets involved in the case because of old family friendships. She represents a different, fresh view on the world. She is brave, observant, cynical, and eager to unmask the Third Reich regime. She is distrustful of Germans, but when she finds March is actually after the truth, she helps him. As they work together unravelling more and more secrets, gaining enemies at fast pace, they find themselves bound by much more than the fact that they can only trust each other.

Though Fatherland is a fictional book, everything it includes, from the international relations and political map of Europe to the details of everyday life, is what would truly have been possible. Not only that. Fatherland is a shocking reminder that the Nazi vision it depicts was not just possible but was in the major part of Europe for some time a reality.

The most horrifying part of Fatherland is the one about the Holocaust. Harris incorporates authentic historical documents, along with the events which we know for a fact took place but were undocumented. Besides that, Harris’ presentation of the Nazis’ mentality, their hatred and their attitude towards whom they deemed to be inferior nations is shockingly genuine.

Fatherland is a fictional book, but most of its elements are not, and the book successfully reminds the readers of that. After almost seventy years, when only few people who experienced the era personally still live, we need such books to make us remember, because remembering is the only thing that can prevent the history from repeating itself. Serving as a reminder of the horrors that did happen, and which people tend to forget, is the real value of this book.

RECOMMENDATION: This is an attention-keeping book from the first to the last page. Despite being about alternate history, it offers a great insight into the actual history. I recommend this book to everyone, but especially to people who like reading historical fiction, especially WW II books, and books about alternate history. 


  1. Wow! Haven't heard of this book before. I'm glad I discovered it through this review. Could you tell me how many pages there are in this book, if you don't mind? I am most definitely thinking of reading this SOON. I love historical fiction, especially ones that center around the Holocaust.

  2. @ Jillian: My edition had 360 pages, so somewhere around that. I hope you will like it if you decide to read it.

  3. This sounds really good! And terrifying. I do really like historical fiction, so I'll have to pick this one up sometime soon. Great review!

  4. I haven't seen this book around, but it sounds very interesting.


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