Tag: Littell

Monthly Review – February 2013

Posted February 28, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

It’s so great to see just how well the reading challenge is going; over 500 books have been read from the group so far. I’m so happy with the response and pleased to see people still had time to read The Fault in our Stars. Plenty of interesting thoughts have come out of this book from the group and while there was some people that didn’t like the book, I’m so glad to see so much great constructive criticism in the threads; this is what we live for. For those who don’t know about the reading challenge, there is still time to join in the fun, so check out my introductory post here.

I’m really impressed with the book club’s efforts this year and as we move into March, I’m looking forward to seeing what people will say about Lolita for our Russian literature theme. In January, I managed to read twenty books but this month I’ve read fifteen, which is not a bad effort and still a number I can be proud of. Five of those books go towards the Literary Exploration Reading Challenge and you can find my own record of the challenge here.

Highlights this month include the epic cyber punk noir novel Altered Carbon and the recently translated German crime blockbuster Snow White Must Die. Also I got to read a modern masterpiece by an author that is quickly become a favourite of mine; Jeffery Eugenides. The Virgin Suicides was his debut novel and it was wonderfully bleak; I can’t recommend it enough. How was February for you and your reading life? Let me know in the comments below.

Monthly Reading

  • Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan
  • Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
  • Dirt by David Vann
  • Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
  • Gun Machine by Warren Ellis
  • Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne
  • March Violets by Philip Kerr
  • Occupation Diaries by Raja Shehadeh
  • One for the Books by Joe Queenan
  • Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead
  • Snow White Must Die by Nele Neuhaus
  • The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay
  • The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Young Philby by Robert Littell
  • Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

Young Philby by Robert Littell

Posted February 12, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Thriller / 0 Comments

Young Philby by Robert LittellTitle: Young Philby (Goodreads)
Author: Robert Littell
Published: Bloomsbury, 2013
Pages: 261
Genres: Thriller
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Kim Philby could possibly be the most notorious double agent in espionage history. Recruited by the Secret Intelligent Service during World War II, he began spying for the Russians on the British intelligence service. Robert Littell’s Young Philby follows what little we know about his early years up till what made him a great double (or should we say triple?) agent.

Kim Philby was a real high-ranking British intelligence officer who worked as a double agent serving as both an NKVD and KGB operative. Robert Littell takes what little we know about this famous spy and tries to recount a fictionalised version of his life, but does it really cover the truth? It’s hard to recount a story when you don’t know the real thoughts that went through the person’s head and I think this was the one major thing that was lacking. I can understand, being a fictionalised version of his life, the author didn’t want to speculate on his motivations, but I really wanted more on his psychological profile.

As an espionage novel goes, this is no John le Carré; there is a sense of complexity with the double agent idea but I found it really easy to follow. I love le Carré’s ability to write these massively complex espionage novels that really take you on a journey of the unexpected and I would have liked a bit more of that from Robert Littell but he was probably confined to the facts. This was a compelling read and I love a good spy story but I think the narrative did need a little more work to put it among the great espionage novels.

Fast pacedand shifting perspectives really helped driving this novel and the cover alone makes this book worth purchasing. If you don’t know much about the life of Kim Philby, this would be a good place to start; learn about the Cambridge Five, the defection to Russia or just explore a good cold war spy story. I’m glad I got a chance to read Young Philby; I didn’t know much about the man but he did have an interesting life. These fictionalised accounts of history may not be 100% accurate but they do make it easier to get a sense of what happened.