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Book of Kings


“An 800 page fable…Other episodes show brilliantly. There is the simple poetry of a schooner unfurling sail and setting out; and the force of young energy joined to young ignorance when David discovers a wrecked plane on the family estate building and then flying it. There is a brutal trek through the Russian winter after he deserts. There is the painfully hyperreal, absolutely authentic scene in which Justin, then unknown, tries to get his manuscript past the receptionist of a Paris publisher. There are two brilliantly contrasted episodes: General Guderian launching his panzer attack across the French border and the French falling back in disarray…here, in his mastery of detail and dynamics, Thackara makes his closest approach to the surging wave – though not the reflective undertow – of Tolstoy’s war chapters. More quietly, but perhaps with greater artistry, there is Justin and his fellow Resistance fighters blowing up a train. Thackara sets it from the perspective of an angler fishing in a nearby pond: a haiku that captures a landslide.” Richard Eder, The New York Times

“It is an absorbing story, with some very powerful scenes…Thackara has invested [Johannes Godard’s] damnation with chilling Faustian overtones.” The Los Angeles Times

“And yet, and yet…when Thackara suppresses the sonorous biblical pontificating and concentrates on his characters – especially on the tension between the refusal of David, a German, to comprehend his country’s brutalisation and the French-Algerian Justin’s sorrowful surrender of his idealism – The Book of Kings stabs with compelling intensity…a unique fictional journey.” Kirkus Reviews

“Considered by many a work of true genius…the books’ middle 300 pages dramatize with great brilliance German battlefield victories, the Nazi occupation of France, the formation of the French resistance and the horrors of the Russian front. As the saying goes, they’re worth the price of admission. Maybe Homer had it right rather than Tolstoy. You either write the “The Iliad” or “The Odyssey”, but you don’t presume to put them both together in one long story.” U.S. National Public Radio

Thackara’s narrative flow is occasionally glacial but ultimately irresistible Sunday Times Stephen Amidon

This is a great work…there are many , like this reviewer, who will turn the last page only to start reading the book once more. Economist, June 26 1999

Comparisons to Tolstoy are not unwarranted… Now the book that nobody could publish is the book nobody should miss reading. The Seattle Times May 16 1999

…the relentless drive of his narrative, the strong chaarcterisation and his acute understanding of the human condition keep you turning the pages Bimingham Post Michael Emery

With few exceptions (DeLillo’s “underworld” and Wolfe’s A Man in Full” come immediately to mind) our best novelists turn out little moe than elongated short stories, in which the writer assumes that the reader can picture the setting form himself …San Diego Union Tribune May 9

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The Book of Kings
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