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Dark Star


Dark Star Cover

ISBN13: 9780375759994
ISBN10: 0375759999
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

1. The protagonist of Alan Fursts Dark Star, Andre Szara, is a journalist for Pravda. Do you like the idea of a writer as a lead character? What might having a writer as the protagonist provide the story? What problems might it raise?

2. Consider Fursts use of suspense in Dark Star. How does he build suspense? Discuss different methods he uses in the novel.

3. Discuss the theme of heroism in the novel. How does Szara define the word? How does his definition compare with the way other characters understand the word?

4. Dark Star deals with the inability of German Jews to escape Nazi Germany by immigrating to other countries. In what ways does the novel suggest a broader responsibility for the fate of German Jews? What questions must a country consider before it can accept immigrant refugees?

5. Discuss the characters of General Bloch, Lady Angela Hope, Roddy Fitzware, Renate Braun, and the diplomat Von Polanyi as representatives of national secret services. In what ways are they similar? Different? What can you extrapolate about the service agency for which each one works?

6. Critics praise Fursts ability to re-create the atmosphere of World War II—era Europe. 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?

7. 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?

8. 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 his books often take part in the action for a few pages and then disappear. What do you think becomes of them? How do you know?

9. 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 war in comfort? If not, why not?

10. Love affairs are always prominent in Fursts novels, and “love in time of war” is a recurring theme. What role does the love affair play in Dark Star?

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

Edward Hahn, May 20, 2011 (view all comments by Edward Hahn)
Allan Furst is to WWII what John LeCarre is to the Cold War. He is one of, if not, the best practitioners of the "spy novel" as literature.

His main character Andre Szara grew on me until I found myself thinking, "Could I do what he did and maintain my essential self?" I'm still not sure.

The story starts slowly but gathers momentum like one of the trains that Szara rides all over Europe. How Furst manages to capture the essential Russian-ness or German-ness of the characters contributes to the magic of the story. Towards the end, I could not put the book down even at 2:30 AM.

I am sure you will enjoy this novel even if you are not a fan of spy stories.
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nancy b. webb, June 12, 2010 (view all comments by nancy b. webb)
I have discovered Alan Furst this year and am getting a view of history that eluded me with nonfiction accounts of Europe and the pre WWII invasions. Mr. Furst creates a spine tingling tale and history at the same time. This story captures the seas of Europe and their casualties, ordinary merchant vessels that become extraordinary in times of war. I am smitten with the horrors and the mystifying quality of this war of neighbors, as close as Illinois and Missouri, yet different tongues and cultures. Ancient feuds that bring indifference or hate. And yet, the diversity of the crew of the merchant ship, the loyalty to itself as well as to their country and its allies.
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Product Details

Furst, Alan
Random House Trade
Furst, Alan
Historical fiction
Spy stories
General Fiction
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Rh Trade Paperb
Publication Date:
July 9, 2002
Grade Level:
8.04x5.16x.99 in. .76 lbs.

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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 » Technothrillers
Humanities » Literary Criticism » General

Dark Star Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$5.50 In Stock
Product details 480 pages Random House Trade - English 9780375759994 Reviews:
"Review" by , "A rich, deeply moving novel of suspense that is equal parts espionage thriller, European history and love story."
"Review" by , "Compelling....An excellent novel of history, betrayal and, most important, survival....While the story offers enough twists and turns to satisfy the most ardent spy fan, author Alan Furst transcends genre. This is a novel with heart."
"Review" by , "This is a rich book, to be savored...for it is a work of an accomplished writer without obtrusively saying so on every other page. Furst has the instincts of the historian — he likes to get his sequences right, he tells a story straight, and he believes that setting matters — and the gifts of the storyteller."
"Review" by , "Kafka, Dostoyevsky, and le Carré sit up all night and talk to each other and this is what you get. It is absolutely wonderful."
"Review" by , "[I]ntelligent, provocative and gripping....Furst depicts the historical, geographic and political context in lucid and highly readable prose....His story is not a pretty one; but it is beautifully and compellingly told."
"Review" by , "Entertaining, exciting, and thought-provoking reading."
"Review" by , "Dark Star never becomes one of those breathless adventures that build fake suspense around schemes to stop Hitler. Plot is less important than Furst's powerful descriptive writing....What carries the book to a level beyond the cynicism of spy novels is its ability to carry us back in time. Nothing can be like watching Casablanca for the first time. But Furst comes closer than anyone has in years."
"Review" by , "A page-churner of the best sort....Brilliant detail and sure sweep....Here is a thriller more deeply satisfying than much of the nonthrilling 'serious fiction' around today."
"Review" by , "[Dark Star] explores the ambiguous moral ground familiar to readers of Graham Greene, Robert Stone, and le Carré....Terrific stuff — poignant, moving, provocative."
"Review" by , "The time-frame of the late 1930s on the Continent was once the special property of Eric Ambler and Graham Greene; Furst has ventured into their fictional territory and brought out a story that is equally original and engaging."
"Review" by , "One of the best spy novels I?ve read in years....The novel is impeccably researched. It?s as much historical fiction as it is spy fiction, and the atmosphere of danger and doom it creates by means of deftly employed historical details is matched only by the vividness of its mostly fictional characters. Dark Star doesn?t merely evoke the period. Because of its engaging plot and appealing hero, it makes you live there, suffer there, and hope."
"Review" by , "Dark Star is as fine an evocation of prewar Europe as anything I?ve ever read. An extremely well written and literate novel that practically creates a new genre: historical espionage."
"Review" by , "Outclasses any spy novel I have ever read."
"Synopsis" by , Paris, Moscow, Berlin, and Prague, 1937. In the back alleys of nighttime Europe, war is already under way. André Szara, survivor of the Polish pogroms and the Russian civil wars and a foreign correspondent for Pravda, is co-opted by the NKVD, the Soviet secret intelligence service, and becomes a full-time spymaster in Paris. As deputy director of a Paris network, Szara finds his own star rising when he recruits an agent in Berlin who can supply crucial information. Dark Star captures not only the intrigue and danger of clandestine life but the day-to-day reality of what Soviet operatives call special work.
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