Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Book Review - The Eye of the Needle

Author: Ken Follett
Published in: 1978

My habit of selecting a book for reading has undergone a small change. Initially it used to pick books recommended by friends, not I’ve started using Wikipedia. I search for an author in Wikipedia and from the article I get to know the best novels written by the author.

Recently I went through the article on Ken Follett in Wikipedia and read that the Eye of the Needle was his first success, and a brief about the book was enough to tell me that I would like it.

The book is a work of fiction, woven craftily around a historic event. In 1944, during WW2, the Allied forces were planning a great invasion in the German occupied France, to get a stronghold on Europe from where they could attack Germany. The Allied forces created a fictitious army group, which consisted of dummy airplanes, dummy tanks and barracks. A real general was also posted there, along with a few hundred soldiers, to give the German reconnaissance the picture that a huge army was being built up for invasion.

The position of this army as well as the sending out of decodable messages by England made Germany to believe that the Allied army would be invading France at Calais, while the Allied army was preparing to invade through Normandy. The book tells us the possibility of the presence of a master spy, who might have had the knowledge of the plan and was traveling to Germany to warn them. If the spy succeeds, England would loose the war.

The German spy, who goes by the identity Henry Faber, who has been stationed in London to collect information about the movement of troops in England has been assigned to verify the claim that a huge army is being built up to invade France through Calais. He reaches the site and taken enough evidence to prove that the entire army is a fake.

Since the information he possesses is of strategic importance to the war, he decides to take the information himself to Germany. He also sends the photographs which he had taken at the site through a channel which he thought was safe, but it was compromised. Once the photographs were captured by England, the investigation is handed over to the MI5, to capture the spy before he hands over the information to Germany. Two people – Percival Godliman, a professor and Frederick Bloggs, are made in-charge of the operation to capture Faber. The cat and mouse chase takes the readers from London to Aberdeen, with Faber always managing to outsmart MI5.

Another thread in the book follows the story of Lucy Rose, wife of David Rose. They were married one day before David was to join the RAF to fight in the WW2. While driving back home after their wedding they meet with an accident, which results in David being crippled for the rest of his life. This throws their married life out of gear.

The two threads of stories meet, deciding the final outcome of the story. By the time Faber and Lucy meet, Lucy has a son from David named Jo. The ending of the story has not deviated from history, that the Allied forces were able to fool Germany into believing that they would be attacking from Calais and not from Normandy.

While reading the novel, I could not stop myself from comparing the similarities of the story with the story of a recent Hindi movie “Fanaa”.

Fanaa follows the story of a Pakistani spy who is returning back to Pakistan carrying sensitive information. Here too the Pakistani spy is always one step ahead of the authorities until he meets the women, whose part is played by Lucy in the book. The story of the movie has been “Indianized” and a major difference being that the woman is blind, unlike Lucy. During the course of the movie, the woman undergoes surgery to recover her eyesight.

I had watched “Fanaa” on my computer and finished watching the movie in an hour, I fast forwarded most of the scenes.

The novel was a pretty decent read, though I could find a few similarities with respect to the style with “The Day of the Jackal” by Frederick Forsyth, although the stories are totally different.


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