Munich by Robert Harris
Knopf, 2018. Hardcover, 304 pages.
Munich is a novel covering a tense five-day period in 1938. Hitler is wanting to forcefully annex the Sudetenland, a Czechoslovakian province populated by Germans. The story is told from the perspective of two government officials, one on each side. Hugh Legat is a rising star in the British Foreign Ministry and works directly for the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain. Paul von Hartmann is a German official who works in German Foreign Office. Both attended Oxford together six years earlier and now watch the officials they work for struggle to come to an acceptable agreement over the transfer of the land while avoiding war.
However, Hartmann knows that war is unavoidable thanks to his work in the German resistance. He pulls strings to ensure both he and his old friend are assigned to the Munich Conference so that he can pass along important information. What will happen to these two?
Harris maintained a great deal of suspense throughout Munich. This must have been hard to achieve since the outcome is known to history. However, otherwise the story is more novelized history than having a true plot. Yes, two characters were introduced to show the actions of the major players and they have a shared background and these characters and their subplot were really the only reason this was a fictional account. That said, Harris worked Legat and Hartmann into the overall story quite realistically and that is what led to the aforementioned suspense. As a whole, readers will learn a great deal about the Munich Conference and the Appeasement thanks to the amount of information included and supported by a vast list of primary and secondary sources.
Compared to Harris’ other works, this is better than Enigma (which I had high hopes for) and Pompeii (which was mediocre). It is nearly, but now quite as good as, An Officer and a Spy (about the Alfred Dreyfus trial).
If you have read other works by Harris, what were your thoughts? For all, do you think you will read this novel?
This review is based on an advanced reader copy provided by the First to Read program. I will note that based on the Goodreads summary, the name of the German character may have been changed from the copy I read.