Written by Robert Harris
Review by Charlotte Wightwick

Set in 1944, with the war in Europe going badly for Hitler, this new historical thriller by Robert Harris follows two main characters. Rudi Graf is a young German scientist who, before the war, dreamed of sending rockets to the moon. His friend and mentor, Wernher von Braun, persuaded him that the military would fund their passion, but instead he found himself trapped, developing the terrifying ‘V2’ bombs for the Nazi regime. Kay Caton-Walsh is an officer in the WAAF. Caught up in a V2 attack herself, she volunteers to help locate and destroy the mobile launch sites used by the Germans.

Harris’ novel explores the horrors of war, on both sides: the devastation of a V2 attack is eloquently laid before us, as are the bloody and indiscriminate effects of a British bombing raid. It also explores the moral ambiguities of wartime: Graf is presented, not as a fundamentally evil man, but as a naïve one: trusting his friend, trapped by circumstance and the threat of death at the Nazis’ hands; hating the regime and what he is doing yet half-believing some of their propaganda, and grieving for his civilian lover, killed by British bombs. As one would expect, V2 is fast-paced and compelling, despite containing a significant amount of technical information about the V2 rocket-bombs. One of the most interesting elements for me was the glimpse into the work of the WAAF officers, carrying out the painstaking and specialised intelligence work which greatly assisted the war effort. However, that is what the book feels like: a series of glimpses, vignettes, into simultaneously fascinating and appalling aspects of the war, without a truly satisfying conclusion. That said, it is still a gripping and absorbing book, and one which fans of Harris’s work will no doubt enjoy.