Eye of the Needle

“Eye of the Needle” cover. A male figure seen through eye of a bloody stiletto with Nazi symbols.
That’s blood on Farber’s stiletto.

In 1944, the whole world expected the Allies to invade German-held territory on the continent soon.

The question was where.

Ken Follett’s novel Eye of the Needle is based on the hoax of cardboard ships and planes, called the First United States Army Group, that Britain created to suggest they will attack at Calais, near Belgium, rather than at their intended site in Normandy.

From that historical fact, Follett sets up a thrilling cat-and-mouse game in which a German spy, Henry Faber, called “The Needle” because of his preference for the stiletto as a death weapon, discovers the deception and tries to get his evidence back to Germany.

Farber is a professional spy. The other German spies working in England are rank amateurs; Farber has to eliminate them if they see his face.

The spies trying to catch Farber are also little more than amateurs. Percy Goldiman’s specialty is medieval history; before the war Frederick Bloggs was an inspector with Scotland Yard.

The unlikely pair come up with a scheme for getting a photograph of Farber.

Eye of the Needle contains no great philosophical truths, but Follett gets his psychological truths right.

Ordinary people rising to the occasion make this mystery-thriller extraordinary.

Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett
Arbor House, ©1978. 313 p.
1978 bestseller #10. My grade: A-

©2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni

The Young Lions Superb Novel of the Hell Inside Soldiers

The Young Lions is a superbly plotted novel about three solders in World War II. Christian Diestl is a cultured German; Noah Ackerman is an American Jew; Michael Whitacre is a clumsy ,idealistic, American playwright.

Irwin Shaw introduces each in his own chapter, then continues to cycle through their stories as each man is drawn into the war. As all three wind up in France after D-Day, their stories converge.

The war is awful for soldiers on both sides. Bad food and sore feet are every soldier’s lot. Opportunists on both sides make money from other men’s misery. Both sides have equally incompetent officers.

This is not so much a “war is hell” story as a story about the hell men carry with them to war. War defines and intensifies each one’s essential nature.

There are no stereotypes, no heroes or villains from central casting. Shaw, a playwright himself, shows each man through his words and actions. The men are so distinctive, you feel almost as if you actually knew them.

Although The Young Lions is easily twice typical novel length, the story is so engrossing it doesn’t seem a paragraph too long.

This is superb reading. Don’t miss it.

The Young Lions
By Irwin Shaw
Random House, 1948
689 pages
Bestseller # 10 for 1948
My Grade: A-
© 2007 Linda Gorton Aragoni