Brain Candy Sale

Special Offers see all

Enter to WIN a $100 Credit

Subscribe to
for a chance to win.
Privacy Policy

Visit our stores

    Recently Viewed clear list

    Original Essays | September 23, 2015

    Bryan Doerries: IMG Using Greek Tragedies to Comfort the Afflicted and Afflict the Comfortable

    In ancient Athens, during the fifth century BC, military service was required of all citizens. To be a citizen meant being a soldier, and vice... Continue »
    1. $18.87 Sale Hardcover add to wish list

Qualifying orders ship free.
List price: $16.00
Used Trade Paper
Ships in 1 to 3 days
Add to Wishlist
Qty Store Section
2 Local Warehouse ADV- THRILLERS

The Polish Officer


The Polish Officer Cover

ISBN13: 9780375758270
ISBN10: 0375758275
Condition: Standard
All Product Details

Only 2 left in stock at $5.50!



Reading Group Guide

1. 1. It has been said that many of the heroes of World War II were ordinary men and women who responded to extraordinary times. Is this true of Captain de Milja? Do you think he would still be a remarkable person in peacetime? What about the young boy on the train to Pilava?

2. 2. At the beginning of The Polish Officer, Captain de Milja is described as “a soldier” who “knew he didnt have long to live.” At the very end of the book, he says he “might live through [the war], you never know.” Discuss this change in his outlook. Does his opinion of his chances of survival affect his actions?

3. 3. From the outbreak of fighting until Germanys surrender, Poland fought an all-out war against the German invasion. Warsaw and many other Polish cities were destroyed, and Poland lost eighteen percent of its population between 1939 and 1945-more than any other country in World War II. By contrast, France lost a much smaller percentage of its population and Paris was left nearly intact after the German occupation. What does this say about collaboration and sacrifice?

4. 4. Critics praise Fursts ability to re-create the atmosphere of World War II-era Europe with great accuracy. What elements of description make the setting come alive? How can you account for the fact that the settings seem authentic even though you probably have no firsthand knowledge of the times and places he writes about?

5. 5. Fursts novels have been described as “historical novels,” and as “spy novels.” He calls them “historical spy novels.” Some critics have insisted that they are, simply, novels. How does his work compare with other spy novels youve read? What does he do that is the same? Different? If you owned a bookstore, in what section would you display his books?

6. 6. Furst is often praised for his minor characters, which have been described as “sketched out in a few strokes.” Do you have a favorite in this book? Characters in Fursts books often take part in the action for a few pages and then disappear. What do you think becomes of them? And, if you know, how do you know? What in the book is guiding you toward that opinion?

7. 7. At the end of an Alan Furst novel, the hero is always still alive. What becomes of Fursts heroes? Will they survive the war? Does Furst know what becomes of them? Would it be better if they were somewhere safe and sound, to live out the end of the war in comfort? If not, why not?

8. 8. Love affairs are always prominent in Fursts novels, and “love in a time of war” is a recurring theme. Do you think these affairs might last, and lead to marriage and domesticity?

9. 9. How do the notions of good and evil work in The Polish Officer? Would you prefer a confrontation between villain and hero at the end of the book? Do you like Fursts use of realism in the novel?

What Our Readers Are Saying

Add a comment for a chance to win!
Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

Edward Hahn, August 2, 2011 (view all comments by Edward Hahn)
This is my fourth Alan Furst book and the best so far. I got so caught up in the story that I finished it in two days. I literally could not put it down.

The struggles of Alexander de Milja, a Polish map maker, working for his government's intelligence services, to survive the German/Russian invasion of Poland in 1939 and the ongoing war, while maintaining his integrity and honor, is spellbinding.

The writing is so realistic that it would be easy to believe that Furst experienced the events himself. He says in a postscript that he relies heavily on journals. Still, he has a compelling way of making it all so personal. His characters are finely drawn and heroic in a way that uncovers all their fears and misgivings.

He avoids stereotyping the Germans, the Russians, the French and the Poles while still making use of what he sees as their national characteristics. In this story, the only truly evil people are the German leaders. Everyone else is caught up in the events of the time.

I also appreciate his drawing out the class differences which are sometimes greater than the national or ethnic differences. Even his minor characters are memorable, like the candy store owner, Mademoiselle Herault and the teen-aged radio operator, Janin.

This is not a thriller. It is not a "spy" story. It is not historical fiction. It is much more than all of that. It's literature in the best sense of the word.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)
merle, January 1, 2011 (view all comments by merle)
Alan Furst creates the atmosphere of noir spy films. All of his novels are set in mostly eastern Europe as WWII is about to take over or is upon us. they are totally fascinating, and full of history. As good as Le Carre'.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
Chris Johnson, June 2, 2008 (view all comments by Chris Johnson)
I have enjoyed all of the Alan Furst novels that I have read, and this was no exception. The descriptions of wartime Poland and pre-Anschluss Paris in this novel are wonderful. Furst is great at intuiting and describing the practicalities of everyday life in wartime and occupation. de Milja is a somewhat reluctant spy, and Furst does a nice job of describing his "learning curve." The storyline in this novel is straightforward compared to most of Furst's other novels, and I was not particularly moved by de Milja's relationship with his wife, nor did I really see its relevance to de Milja's character and actions. Still, worth every penny.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(6 of 11 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 3 comments

Product Details

Furst, Alan
Random House Trade
Furst, Alan
New York, N.Y.
World war, 1939-1945
Historical - General
Historical fiction
Spy stories
War stories
Military intelligence
World War, 19
War & Military
General Fiction
Popular Fiction-Military
fiction;espionage;wwii;poland;historical fiction;spy;thriller;mystery;novel;paris;historical;war;france;europe;suspense;germany;alan furst;history
fiction;espionage;wwii;poland;historical fiction;spy;thriller;novel;mystery;paris;war;historical;france;europe;alan furst;suspense;germany;history;warsaw
Edition Number:
1st trade pbk. ed.
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
October 2001
Grade Level:
8 x 5.2 x .6 in .475 lb

Other books you might like

  1. Dark Star
    Used Trade Paper $5.50
  2. Night Soldiers Used Trade Paper $5.95
  3. The World at Night
    Used Trade Paper $9.50
  4. The Runner: A True Account of the...
    Used Hardcover $8.50
  5. I Have a Dream - 40th Anniversary... Used Trade Paper $7.50
  6. The Faithful Spy Used Mass Market $4.50

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Mystery » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Popular Fiction » Contemporary Thrillers
Fiction and Poetry » Popular Fiction » Military
Fiction and Poetry » Popular Fiction » Technothrillers

The Polish Officer Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$5.50 In Stock
Product details 320 pages Random House Trade - English 9780375758270 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Brilliantly imagined, vividly drawn, rich with incident and detail....The Polish Officer portrays ordinary men and women caught out on the sharp edge of military intelligence operations in wartime: the partisans, saboteurs, resistance fighters and idealistic volunteers risking their lives in causes that seem lost."
"Review" by , "A great entertainer, Furst would probably be considered our finest practicing historical novelist if he weren't writing espionage novels. He's as good a historian as a novelist can afford to be....Driven by the missions and schemes of one central character more than by the events and institutions that dominate most espionage novels, Furst's books are full of shards of information, anecdotes, heartbreaking stories."
"Review" by , "Beautifully written, powerfully imagined, and riveting as pure story....The book is a triumph."
"Review" by , "Furst has shown that he can produce an espionage tale that sloughs off the coil of genre. But [The Polish Officer] — hugely ambitious and masterfully written — ups the ante....The author understands, with astounding breadth of vision...what WWII was all about....A truly splendid novel of the wartime experience."
"Review" by , "Furst?s writing has the seductive shimmer of an urbane black-and-white Hollywood classic."
"Review" by , "With clear, reticent prose and his trademark mastery of historical detail, Furst brings vividly to life this WWII-era tale of espionage and bravery, chronicling the work of the Polish underground in Poland, France and the Ukraine....Furst's understated narrative is insightful and convincing. The unassuming de Milja — who considers himself merely 'unafraid to die, and lucky so far' — proves an engaging protagonist. His exploits and the courageous sacrifices of the ordinary patriots who help him are both thrilling and at times inspiring."
"Review" by , "One of the best novels of the year....Brilliant."
"Review" by , "[A] riveting ?pure? story...wonderfully exact...transcends the spy novel while delivering everything any fan of le Carré could ask for."
"Synopsis" by , September 1939. As Warsaw falls to Hitlers Wehrmacht, Captain Alexander de Milja is recruited by the intelligence service of the Polish underground. His mission: to transport the national gold reserve to safety, hidden on a refugee train to Bucharest. Then, in the back alleys and black-market bistros of Paris, in the tenements of Warsaw, with partizan guerrillas in the frozen forests of the Ukraine, and at Calais Harbor during an attack by British bombers, de Milja fights in the war of the shadows in a world without rules, a world of danger, treachery, and betrayal.
  • back to top


Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at