An Officer and a Spy

  • by Robert Harris
  • Narrated by David Rintoul
  • 16 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Robert Harris returns to the thrilling historical fiction he has so brilliantly made his own. This is the story of the infamous Dreyfus affair told as a chillingly dark, hard-edged novel of conspiracy and espionage.
Paris in 1895: Alfred Dreyfus, a young Jewish officer, has just been convicted of treason, sentenced to life imprisonment at Devil's Island, and stripped of his rank in front of a baying crowd of 20,000. Among the witnesses to his humiliation is Georges Picquart, the ambitious, intellectual, recently promoted head of the counterespionage agency that Dreyfus had passed secrets to the Germans. At first, Picquart firmly believes in Dreyfus' guilt. But it is not long after Dreyfus is delivered to his desolate prison that Picquart stumbles on information that leads him to suspect that there is still a spy at large in the French military. As evidence of the most malignant deceit mounts and spirals inexorably toward the uppermost levels of government, Picquart is compelled to question not only the case against Dreyfus but also his most deeply held beliefs about his country, and about himself.
Bringing to life the scandal that mesmerized the world at the turn of the 20th century, Robert Harris tells a tale of uncanny timeliness - a witch hunt, secret tribunals, out-of-control intelligence agencies, the fate of a whistle-blower - richly dramatized with the singular storytelling mastery that has marked all of his internationally best-selling novels.

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Top Notch Historical Fiction

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For me, the best authors of historical fiction teach history without their readers knowing it. How? By making the facts come alive - by humanizing history. An engrossed reader comes away with a broader perspective of the world's events AND a good story.

An Officer and a Spy delivers on all accounts. And I must say I'm somewhat perplexed by a few of the negative reviews - I thought the book was excellent. It is the true story of Alfred Dreyfus, a French artillery man of German and Jewish descent, who is falsely accused and found guilty of treason - all of which remains today an unfortunate example of political injustice, aided largely by the court of public opinion. The story is suspenseful, engaging, emotional, and ultimately redemptive. A great listen for any audience - highly recommended.

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- Ryan ""The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why" Mark Twain"

Only for Francophiles and military historians.

The story of Emil Dreyfuss is fairly well known to people like the above. They will no doubt love this book. As for the rest of us, not so much. It's pretty slow going. First, the narrator: David Rintoul's French accent is so good that it's annoying. He over pronounces every French word, street name, personal name and so forth that it actually grates on the nerves. Modern French is a beautiful language, spoken with melodic phrasing, lots of elisions and a casual manner which is hard to master. Mr. Rintoul has done the opposite. He pronounces each word as if it were a royal address in front of an extremely learned and stuffy body. He could really lighten up. The book suffers from his formality and the absence of nuance in his speech. Less would definitely have been more here.
The story of Dreyfuss's conviction for treason, clearly a misstep by the French government of the late 1800's, is sickeningly riddled with ferocious anti-Semitism. The coverup by the military and politicians is as plodding as an elephant. The hero of the story, Major George Picard, is a very easy guy to like, a guy who believes in the truth and is genuinely horrified to see the government turn against him, convicting him in a kangaroo court. Corruption, petty and large, is rampant. Villains are juicy and easy to hate. For those of you who haven't read Robert Harris before, you may be delighted at how deep his research is, how authoritative his voice is, and how you come to fully subscribe to his version of reality. These things just must have happened in this way, because Mr. Harris says so in such an articulate fashion. And, in case there was any doubt about the collusion of the French with the Nazis in WWII, that doubt should be put to rest here. Even though there are over 140n years between the Dreyfuss affair and WWII, the French come off as slimy collaborators. The camps may have been in Austtria, Poland and Germany, but the Jews were rounded up in small towns all over France, stuffed into rail cars and sent off with the utmost cruelty to their unspeakable deaths. It is hard to be romantic about France, a country I have visited many times, and a country which is justifiably proud of its culture, art, music, food, wine, museums, and so forth. To see up close and personal the evils that underlie all of that beauty can be a very tough thing to face. Mr. Harris makes us face it unflinchingly. The book is a tough read, but Mr. Harris continues to put out authoritative, brilliantly researched depictions of some of the most important points in human history. Pompeii is worth listening to. I found this one a pretty rough go.
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- Richard Delman "I am a 65-year-old psychologist, married for 25 years, with two sons who are 25 and 22. I love reviewing the books and the feedback I get."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-28-2014
  • Publisher: Random House Audio