Who was Harry Gold? An American chemist who committed the “crime of the (20th) century” by passing information about the atomic bomb to the Soviets? Or the son of immigrant Russian Jews, who surmounted poverty and discrimination by doing his utmost to help those in need?
This absorbing novel convinces the reader that Harry was no criminal. His story is told sympathetically, from his first involvement with Soviet agents to his indictment in 1950. He is depicted as an ordinary man, who works tirelessly at his chemical experiments, cares nothing for money, and everything for the well-being of his parents and brother, American co-workers, and the struggling people of the Soviet Union. The narrative is primarily from Harry’s point of view, though after page 115, events are also shown through the eyes of Klaus Fuchs, scientist at Los Alamos and Harry’s contact.
My one criticism of this novel is that in places, point of view oscillates so rapidly between Harry and Klaus (sometimes within a single paragraph) that it becomes difficult to know which ‘he’ is meant. There is also the odd place where first person is used, but this gives a not-unpleasant nineteenth-century flavor to otherwise thoroughly modern prose. As an example: “That is another of those might-have-beens, those parallel worlds, which have to be ignored when one is telling the true story of a life.” The owner of this voice? To offer my theory may steal enjoyment from other readers of this book.
Praise on the dust jacket credits Millicent Dillon with bringing “that whole strange era into human and sympathetic focus.” I have to agree.