Robert Harris is a popular author and his books have been entertaining intertwined with historical facts. His last book “The Second Sleep” was more futuristic and I did not enjoy it. V2 is back on familiar territory (Enigma) combining historical fact with a gripping page-turner. Is it as good as Fatherland, Archangel, the Cicero trilogy or Conclave? Perhaps not, but it is a good read nevertheless.
The title gives a clear insight into the story! The story of the V2 is related through twin perspectives – Dr Rudi Graf, a (fictional) friend and longtime collaborator of Wernher von Braun, the real-life head of the Nazi rocket programme, and (the fictional) Kay Caton-Walsh of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. In this way, we learn about the development of the V2 programme and the British response to try and destroy the rocket bases. The factual research is fascinating and a major strength of the novel.
In particular, Dr Graf’s character is quite complex. He feels guilty about the programme’s use but is enthralled with the future capability of the rocket programme. He is often disgusted with the Nazi principles but drawn to the charismatic programme leader von Braun. How will he deal with these conflicts?
Kay’s character development is rather weak. Yes, she is amazingly clever and gutsy but somehow her character falls short. The British tactics and response is well drawn.
The story plot is rather weak too. After all, we know the outcome before we start the read! The story works from learning about the twin perspectives but is the story strong enough? The Guardian describes the novel as “an absorbing thriller”. Absorbing yes, thriller more debatable. The Evening Standard says “Harris is delivering a warning about toxic futility and the ferocious propaganda needed to fuel it. His timing is, unlike the workings of the rockets he writes about, impeccable”.
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Here is Robert Harris in conversation about his novel V2
Robert Harris in conversation with Telegraph writer Harry Mount as they discuss the novelist’s new book, V2, in partnership with Penguin Live.