The World At Night

Written by Alan Furst
Review by Mary K. Bird-Guilliams

Paris and France are the subject of this novel, even more so than the men and women caught by the German advance of 1940. The man Casson, film producer and lover of women and beauty in all forms, comments frequently throughout the book on France or Frenchness as expressed by picking a perfect cheese for supper or the qualities of his ex-wife. “Parisienne to the depths of her soul – she made herself beautiful. She smelled delicious, and she touched you accidentally.” The occupation creeps into this narrative slowly and gradually turns to horror. The allusions to the French character turn defensive. The minor characters are vivid and stud the book freely. The baroness living downstairs from Casson, collaborating somewhat kinkily with a German officer, hides Casson’s true love at the moment of truth. The National Meteorological officer who finds Casson outside his upper story window escaping from the Gestapo exclaims, “Bon Dieu …Well then, Monsieur, I expect you may want to climb in here and permit us to hide you.” Casson’s actual career as a spy is ludicrous, painfully futile, more so for his filmmaker’s viewpoint. The ending is neither tidy nor the tragedy you expect.