Feb 6, 2015
Review: The Alphabet House
The Alphabet House by Jussi Adler-Olsen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In the tradition of Alan Furst, the #1 international bestselling author delivers his first stand-alone novel, a psychological thriller set in World War II Nazi Germany and 1970s England
British pilots James Teasdale and Bryan Young have been chosen to conduct a special photo-reconnaissance mission near Dresden, Germany. Intelligence believes the Nazis are building new factories that could turn the tide of the war. When their plane is shot down, James and Bryan know they will be executed if captured. With an enemy patrol in pursuit, they manage to jump aboard a train reserved for senior SS soldiers wounded on the eastern front.
In a moment of desperation, they throw two patients off the train and take their places, hoping they can escape later. But their act is too convincing and they end up in the Alphabet House, a mental hospital located far behind enemy lines, where German doctors subject their patients to daily rounds of shock treatments and experimental drugs. The pilots’ only hope of survival is to fake insanity until the war ends, but their friendship and courage are put to the ultimate test when James and Bryan realize they aren’t the only ones in the Alphabet House feigning madness.
Millions of fans around the world—and in this country—know Adler-Olsen for his award-winning Department Q series. His first stand-alone, The Alphabet House, is the perfect introduction for those who have yet to discover his riveting work.
A long and excruciating journey among enemies with the threat of death at every turn. This is a must read for those who love to explore the limitations of the human mind, and consider the limitless possibilities of perserverence.
I loved this book from the beginning. The amazing writing kept me in knots imagining having to fake insanity to survive among the highest ranking injured enemy Nazi German soldiers in a Nazi hospital deep behind enemy lines. James and his best friend are British soldiers hiding among the sick top level German soldiers, not only in danger of being discovered by the Nazi officials, but also in danger of being killed by fellow patients. Of course, any of the sick who were suspected of faking mental illness to get out of serving are executed in front of the others near immediately! Talk about pressure to perform. Most people would have truly lost their mind in that situation. I was amazed at the 2 soldier's ability to avoid flinching or showing reaction, fear, or any emotion while watching others being executed or tortured. James feared even showing recognition for each other among the insane patients and the watchful eyes of the patients faking insanity.
I was immediately drawn into the situation by James and Bryan's devotion to each other as friends, and fellow British soldiers. It quickly enough becomes apparent that they are life long friends which added to the urgency and need for them to stick together (in my mind). The story had changing points of view, helping me to understand why James was acting distant and did not want Bryan anywhere near him. James could understand what the German soldiers around them were saying privately at night, but Bryan could only understand English which lead to a lot of true confusion on Bryan's part. At times Bryan's genuine cluelessness helped him seem more insane ... If he had known how much danger he was in he might have broke down.
In this particular story, with so much going on, it really helped to see the situation through the different character's eyes. As the story went on, I had hoped that I knew what was going to happen and felt impatient towards the end. I went through a few chapters of information I felt like I really did not need, BUT the ending was well worth it.
Despite the abundance of information and wordiness in the last part of the book, I absolutely loved the book and it Has found a spot among the best books I have ever read. I feel it is important to point out, as the author did, that the book is about friendship / relationship, faithfulness, love, hope, devotion, perserverence, ... Not a "war" story. The setting (WWII) did lend the perfect amount of horror to their situation and a hopelessness to overcome. I was also impressed that despite the serious and dire situation James and Bryan were in, the author still managed to work in quite a bit of humor.
I was provided this book for an honest review. Any and all opinions are my own and not endorsed by others.
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