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V2: A Novel of World War II

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From the best-selling author of Fatherland and Munich comes a WWII thriller about a German rocket engineer, a former actress turned British spy, and the Nazi rocket program. It's November 1944--Willi Graf, a German rocket engineer, is launching Nazi Germany's V2 rockets at London from Occupied Holland. Kay Connolly, once an actress, now a young English Intelligence officer, From the best-selling author of Fatherland and Munich comes a WWII thriller about a German rocket engineer, a former actress turned British spy, and the Nazi rocket program. It's November 1944--Willi Graf, a German rocket engineer, is launching Nazi Germany's V2 rockets at London from Occupied Holland. Kay Connolly, once an actress, now a young English Intelligence officer, ships out for Belgium to locate the launch sites and neutralize the threat. But when rumors of a defector circulate through the German ranks, Graf becomes a suspect. Unknown to each other, Graf and Connolly find themselves on opposite sides of the hunt for the saboteur. Their twin stories play out against the background of the German missile campaign, one of the most epic and modern but least explored episodes of the Second World War. Their destinies are on a collision course.


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From the best-selling author of Fatherland and Munich comes a WWII thriller about a German rocket engineer, a former actress turned British spy, and the Nazi rocket program. It's November 1944--Willi Graf, a German rocket engineer, is launching Nazi Germany's V2 rockets at London from Occupied Holland. Kay Connolly, once an actress, now a young English Intelligence officer, From the best-selling author of Fatherland and Munich comes a WWII thriller about a German rocket engineer, a former actress turned British spy, and the Nazi rocket program. It's November 1944--Willi Graf, a German rocket engineer, is launching Nazi Germany's V2 rockets at London from Occupied Holland. Kay Connolly, once an actress, now a young English Intelligence officer, ships out for Belgium to locate the launch sites and neutralize the threat. But when rumors of a defector circulate through the German ranks, Graf becomes a suspect. Unknown to each other, Graf and Connolly find themselves on opposite sides of the hunt for the saboteur. Their twin stories play out against the background of the German missile campaign, one of the most epic and modern but least explored episodes of the Second World War. Their destinies are on a collision course.

30 review for V2: A Novel of World War II

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paromjit

    Robert Harris blends fact and fiction to relate the history of the V2 ballistic rockets developed in Germany, in 1944 it becomes increasingly clear to Nazi Germany that events are turning against them. The V2 is Hitler's last throw of the dice in his efforts to try and change the course of the war. He orders ten thousand V2 rockets with their one ton warheads, travelling at three times the speed of sounds, the targets primarily London and Antwerp. The damage and loss of life in London is horrifi Robert Harris blends fact and fiction to relate the history of the V2 ballistic rockets developed in Germany, in 1944 it becomes increasingly clear to Nazi Germany that events are turning against them. The V2 is Hitler's last throw of the dice in his efforts to try and change the course of the war. He orders ten thousand V2 rockets with their one ton warheads, travelling at three times the speed of sounds, the targets primarily London and Antwerp. The damage and loss of life in London is horrific, with the British scrabbling around desperately to find a way of stopping the rockets by locating the launch sites, a task made considerably more difficult as the launch sites change. The German manufacture of the rockets places high levels of stress and pressure on the slave labour callously deployed to make the V2, the shocking loss of life, technical issues and problems plague the V2, raising the levels of unreliability. When her affair with a married Air Commodore becomes more widely known, Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) officer, an embarrassed 24 year old Kay Caton-Walsh, an intelligence officer in photo reconnaissance, becomes part of a contingent of women heading to Mechelen in Belgium. These are very bright women under the leadership of Flight Officer Sitwell, using mathematics, working out the co-ordinates of the trajectory of the rocket, extrapolating the parabolic curve back to the launch point. This is not a danger free role as Kay is to discover. Rocket engineer, Dr Rudi Graf, is a disillusioned man, he never planned to be part of the Nazi war machine, responsible for the deaths of so many. Through Graf, Harris tells the story of the development of the V2, starting from Graf's childhood friendship with Professor Von Braun, their obsession with rockets, Graf wanting to build a spacecraft but inadvertently ends up at the strategic forefront of the Nazi war machine. Graf becomes suspected of sabotage by the Nazis. What stands out in Harris's WW2 historical novel is the level of detail he provides on the V2, from its failure strewn history, the processes and interactions that lay behind the German teams launching the rockets, the SS pressure they are under, trying to meet their impossible targets set, working all hours, moving sites to keep the allies confused and at bay. He provides the same level of detail when it comes to the nightmare impact of the V2, the deaths and wide scale destruction in London, all of which Kay sees first hand during her visit to London, all of which conspires to drive her decision to help bring the war to an end as soon as possible in her work in Belgium. This novel is for who love their WW2 historical fiction, it is likely to particularly appeal to those interested in learning about the V2 and its impact in the war. A fascinating and insightful read. Many thanks to Random House Cornerstone for an ARC.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ”LIke a sprinter poised on her starting block a split second after the pistol was fired, the V2 at first appeared stalled, then abruptly she shot straight upwards, riding a fifteen-metre jet of fire. A thunderous boom rolled from the sky across the wood. Graf craned his neck to follow her, counting in his head, praying she would not explode. One second...two seconds...three seconds....At exactly four seconds into the flight, a time switch was activated in one of the control compartments and the ”LIke a sprinter poised on her starting block a split second after the pistol was fired, the V2 at first appeared stalled, then abruptly she shot straight upwards, riding a fifteen-metre jet of fire. A thunderous boom rolled from the sky across the wood. Graf craned his neck to follow her, counting in his head, praying she would not explode. One second...two seconds...three seconds....At exactly four seconds into the flight, a time switch was activated in one of the control compartments and the V2, already two thousand metres high, began to tilt towards an angle of forty-seven degrees. He always regretted the necessity for that manoeuvre. In his dreams, she rose vertically towards the stars. He had a last glimpse of her red exhaust before she vanished into the low cloud towards London.” The V-2 rocket program by Germany was really a last ditch effort by Adolf Hitler to have any hope of winning the war. By 1944, the writing was on the wall, and his only hope was to soften the will of the British people. A negotiated peace before total defeat would have been preferable. Germany sent over 3000 rockets into London, wiping out entire blocks in some places and did their best to inspire terror. The rocket carried a one ton warhead and was capable of travelling at three times the speed of sound. To be anywhere near the epicenter of one of these rockets was truly a chilling and dangerous experience that proved lethal for over 9,000 people. Kay Caton-Walsh, a member of the WAAF, experiences the impact of one of these rockets first hand as she is blown off her feet in a hotel room near where one of these bombs hit. She actually feels the pressure of the air change just moments before the rocket buries itself in English soil. Her lover, a married man and a superior officer, is injured in the blast. She soon finds herself on her way to Belgium to help a group of women mathematicians calculate the trajectory of these missiles so they can direct the RAF to pound the crap out of these rocket launch sites. ”She looked down at her sheet of paper--at the pencilled figures representing the values of bearing, height, speed and position. The integers of death.” ”The first rocket will hit London in five minutes. You have six minutes to stop the second.” On the other side is Rudi Graf who was recruited by Wernher Von Braun to build rockets. They both dream of making rockets that will eventually take a man to the moon or Mars, but for the moment, they are trapped in the middle of a war building rockets to kill people rather than rockets to change the history of mankind. Von Braun is already making plans for after the war to work for the Americans. He wants Graf to come with him. The main struggle now is to survive the war, and their worst enemies aren’t the Allies, but the SS who expect results or death. The level of truth for working against the fatherland is a low bar, and if the SS suspect Von Braun’s plans, they will both be staring at the sky from the bottom of a ditch. Robert Harris wrote this book in a very short span of time while under quarantine. These are unusual times that writers find themselves in, while trying to produce new works of fiction. Their job is a solitary one, and really, most writers are self-quarantined for most of their day as they try to turn pixels into words and words into books. I can see why he was attracted to the subject of the V2 rockets. In many ways, living under the threat of those rockets is similar to living under the threat of infection. The threat never leaves but hovers over all of us all the time. A positive test inspires the same kind of fear as an exploding rocket. How many people have I infected? How many people will die from each V2 rocket that hits London? Robert Harris is one of the few best selling authors that I will read his book the minute it is released. The V2 rocket is an interesting subject, and there are moments of inspired dread, but I do think that the plot is more simplistic than what I’m used to seeing from him. I was expecting a big twist, and though the ending is satisfactory, it is not that surprising. If you don’t know much about the V2 rocket, he will certainly wet your appetite for exploring the subject in more detail. His writing style, as always, is a breeze to read, and I finished most of the book in one afternoon. Let's hope we are soon holding up the V sign for victory over COVID-19. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten and an Instagram account https://www.instagram.com/jeffreykeeten/

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bill Lynas

    Robert Harris treats his readers to another fine thriller, & structures the novel perfectly. Each chapter alternates between those launching Germany's V2 rockets & those trying to locate & destroy them. Harris bases the story around real events that happened in November 1944, but creates some excellent fictional characters & situations that fit in neatly with the real world. As always the author has a marvellous sense of time & place. The reader easily empathises with the characters whether they a Robert Harris treats his readers to another fine thriller, & structures the novel perfectly. Each chapter alternates between those launching Germany's V2 rockets & those trying to locate & destroy them. Harris bases the story around real events that happened in November 1944, but creates some excellent fictional characters & situations that fit in neatly with the real world. As always the author has a marvellous sense of time & place. The reader easily empathises with the characters whether they are at a V2 launch site in Holland, witnessing a rocket strike on a London street or flying in a Dakota experiencing heavy turbulence over Belgium. Once again Robert Harris lives up to his reputation as one of Britain's finest writers.

  4. 4 out of 5

    William

    5 Stars A truly compelling and fascinating historical novel. The prose is excellent, the pacing relentless, the dialogue fully concise and in service to the action. The plot mainly serves as a superstructure for all the amazing information about the V2, the engineers and military, and the spies and victims of it's short reign during WW-2. As usual with my reviews, please first read the publisher’s blurb/summary of the book. Thank you. Beginning in September 1944, over 3,000 V2s were launched by t 5 Stars A truly compelling and fascinating historical novel. The prose is excellent, the pacing relentless, the dialogue fully concise and in service to the action. The plot mainly serves as a superstructure for all the amazing information about the V2, the engineers and military, and the spies and victims of it's short reign during WW-2. As usual with my reviews, please first read the publisher’s blurb/summary of the book. Thank you. Beginning in September 1944, over 3,000 V2s were launched by the German Wehrmacht against Allied targets, first London and later Antwerp and Liège. Wikipedia article on V2 Rockets Full size image here The story immediately explodes into action in the first pages with Kay, the young WAAF (Women's Auxiliary Air Force) in a hotel room with her lover, just as a V2 crashes into a neighbouring building and explodes. The story of the incredible technology, planning and execution of its launch follows from Kay's curiosity and a desire to do more than endlessly scan aerial photos of the V2 launch areas. Harris' exposition is spare and compelling, and the story provides an excellent vision of the launch areas and nearby cities in Belgium at the end of the war. We also experience the German side from a scientist-engineer, Graf, through whose eyes and thoughts we see the technological miracle, as well as the evil of Hitler and his minions. The prose and exposition are quite wonderful, Harris is in top form here. The book certainly did not seem to be 320 pages, and every page was terrific right up to the climax and quite-satisfying, semi-historical resolution. Note and quotes: Truly extraordinary technology for the 1940s, a triumph and a curse. A genius, Von Braun, with no impediments to his personal goal of reaching the moon, no matter how many would die to get there. Of particular note, the V2 that gets launched straight up in the story, and probably reaches 176 kilometres in altitude (109 miles), would be the first-ever man-made object to reach space. V2 cutaway Full size image here Like a sprinter poised on her starting block a split second after the pistol was fired, the V2 at first appeared stalled, then abruptly she shot straight upwards, riding a fifteen-metre jet of fire. A thunderous boom rolled from the sky across the wood. Graf craned his neck to follow her, counting in his head, praying she would not explode. One second … two seconds … three seconds … At exactly four seconds into the flight, a time switch was activated in one of the control compartments and the V2, already two thousand metres high, began to tilt towards an angle of forty-seven degrees. He always regretted the necessity for that manoeuvre. In his dreams, she rose vertically towards the stars. He had a last glimpse of her red exhaust before she vanished into the low cloud towards London. V2 in transport cradle with V2 just launched in background Full size image here - SIXTY-FIVE SECONDS AFTER TAKE-OFF, AT an altitude of twenty-three miles and a velocity of 2,500 miles per hour, an on-board accelerometer simultaneously cut off the fuel supply to the V2’s engine and activated a switch that armed the warhead fuse. The unpowered rocket was now ballistic, following the same parabolic curve as a stone flung from a catapult. Its speed was still increasing. Its course was set on a compass bearing of 260 degrees west-south-west. Its aiming point was Charing Cross station, the notional dead centre of London; hitting anything within a five-mile radius of that would be considered on target. - A hundred miles to the east [of London], the V2 had reached its maximum altitude of fifty-eight miles–the edge of the earth’s atmosphere–and was hurtling at a velocity of 3,500 miles per hour beneath a hemisphere of stars when gravity at last began to reclaim it. Its nose slowly tilted and it started to fall towards the North Sea. Despite the buffeting of cross-winds and air turbulence during re-entry, a pair of gyroscopes mounted on a platform immediately below the warhead detected any deviations in its course or trajectory and corrected them by sending electrical messages to the four rudders in its tail fins. Just as Kay was fastening the second of her stockings, it crossed the English coast three miles north of Southend-on-Sea, and as she pulled her dress over her head, it flashed above Basildon and Dagenham. At 11.12 a.m., four minutes and fifty-one seconds after launching, travelling at nearly three times the speed of sound, too fast to be seen by anyone on the ground, the rocket plunged onto Warwick Court. - An object moving at supersonic speed compresses the atmosphere. In the infinitesimal fraction of a second before the tip of the nose cone touched the roof of the Victorian mansion block, and before the four-ton projectile crashed through all five floors, Kay registered–beyond thought, and far beyond any capacity to articulate it–some change in the air pressure, some presentiment of threat. Then the two metal contacts of the missile’s fuse, protected by a silica cap, were smashed together by the force of the impact, completing an electrical circuit that detonated a ton of amatol high explosive. The devastation of a single V2 explosion Full size image here Early Graf and Von Braun and their club They raised money for the Society for Space Travel at a stall in the Wertheim department store. (‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ declared von Braun, ‘the man is already alive who will one day walk on the moon!’) - ‘In Germany now there are three choices,’ Kammler told them. ‘You are shot by the SS, you are imprisoned by the SS, or you work for the SS.’ - Incredible. The Germans killed 4x as many of their own people during construction and launch of the 3,000 V2s as eventually died from being actual targets. Twenty thousand people had died at Nordhausen making the V2, four times as many as had been killed by it. Interesting Acknowledgements and Historical notes from Robert Harris THE BULK OF THIS NOVEL was written during the 2020 lockdown imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. For four hours every morning, seven days a week, for fourteen weeks, I retreated to my study and closed the door–a lockdown within a lockdown–and I would like to express my love and gratitude to my wife, Gill Hornby, and our two youngest children and fellow isolators, Matilda and Sam, for their good company and cheerful forbearance during this surreal interlude. The genesis of this novel was an obituary in The Times on 5 September 2016 of ninety-five-year-old Eileen Younghusband, which described her work as a WAAF officer in Mechelen. I subsequently read her two volumes of memoirs, Not an Ordinary Life (2009) and One Woman’s War (2011). My fictional WAAF officer bears no resemblance to Mrs Younghusband, Precisely what went on in Mechelen in the winter of 1944–5 is hard to establish, and I have had to rely on guesswork and some artistic licence. Nevertheless, I would never have written V2 were it not for her disclosure of the existence of the Mechelen operation. I will always be grateful for her inspiration. Robert Harris Full size image here .

  5. 4 out of 5

    Veeral

    Robert Harris is one of the very few authors whose books go on my 'to-read-without-fail' list, regardless of whatever they write. And they rarely disappoint. But sadly, it was not true in this case. I had my doubts when I read that this book was about V2 rockets. I consider von Braun a Nazi war criminal, who was pardoned just because he could give the US an upper hand in the space (and weapons) race against the Soviets. Thankfully, von Braun is not a major character in this book. But even then, Robert Harris is one of the very few authors whose books go on my 'to-read-without-fail' list, regardless of whatever they write. And they rarely disappoint. But sadly, it was not true in this case. I had my doubts when I read that this book was about V2 rockets. I consider von Braun a Nazi war criminal, who was pardoned just because he could give the US an upper hand in the space (and weapons) race against the Soviets. Thankfully, von Braun is not a major character in this book. But even then, there's no excitement to the story which one expects from a Robert Harris book. The novel, unlike most of the V2s, never really takes off, and peters out with a tiny whoosh.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    The inimitable Robert Harris returns with a WWII thriller about a German rocket engineer, a former actress turned British spy, and the Nazi rocket program. On the brink of defeat, Hitler commissioned 10,000 V2s - ballistic rockets that carried a one-ton warhead at three times the speed of sound, which he believed would win the war. It's November 1944 - Rudi Graf, a German rocket engineer, is launching Nazi Germany's V2 rockets at London from Occupied Holland. Kay Caton-Walsh, once an actress, no The inimitable Robert Harris returns with a WWII thriller about a German rocket engineer, a former actress turned British spy, and the Nazi rocket program. On the brink of defeat, Hitler commissioned 10,000 V2s - ballistic rockets that carried a one-ton warhead at three times the speed of sound, which he believed would win the war. It's November 1944 - Rudi Graf, a German rocket engineer, is launching Nazi Germany's V2 rockets at London from Occupied Holland. Kay Caton-Walsh, once an actress, now a young English Intelligence officer, ships out for newly-liberated Belgium to locate the launch sites and neutralize the threat when 160 Londoners, mostly women and children, are killed by a single missile, the government decides to send a team of WAAFs. But when rumors of a defector circulate through the German ranks, Graf becomes a suspect. Unknown to each other, Graf and Caton-Walsh find themselves on opposite sides in the hunt for the saboteur. Their twin stories play out against the background of the German missile campaign, one of the most epic and modern but least explored episodes of the Second World War. Their destinies are on a collision course. Harris has penned one of the most accomplished and gripping thrillers I've read in a long time. Set against the backdrop of WWII he explores the Nazi V2 campaign which was waged as vengeance for the Allied bombings of German targets and killed over 9,000 civilians. Harris's writing draws you in from the very beginning and keeps you feverishly turning the pages right through until the end. The level of tension is difficult to describe adequately but it is certainly palpable and my heart was pounding throughout. This is a captivating, chilling and action-packed story with the customary twists and turns, most of which I didn't see coming. And how could I forget the characters involved? They are exceptionally drawn, so much so that you begin to care about their lives and what is about to happen to them. If you're looking for a well researched, suspenseful and superbly wrought espionage thriller then this is a must-read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cathy

    Like his novel Munich which I read recently, V2 is set over the course of just a few days. However, this time it’s 1944 at the height of the German onslaught on London with deadly V2 rockets, the devastating effects of which are vividly described. The book alternates between the stories of two main characters – German engineer, Dr. Rudi Graf, and British WAAF Officer, Kay Caton-Walsh. Despite being on different sides, their lives will intertwine in a number of ways. The book contains many powerfu Like his novel Munich which I read recently, V2 is set over the course of just a few days. However, this time it’s 1944 at the height of the German onslaught on London with deadly V2 rockets, the devastating effects of which are vividly described. The book alternates between the stories of two main characters – German engineer, Dr. Rudi Graf, and British WAAF Officer, Kay Caton-Walsh. Despite being on different sides, their lives will intertwine in a number of ways. The book contains many powerful scenes including the intricate and highly risky process involved in launching the V2 rockets and the resulting scenes of devastation on the streets of London caused by their impact.  Most memorable for me was Graf’s recollection of his visit to witness the construction using slave labour of the vast subterranean factory at Nordhausen where the rockets are to be manufactured. “The stench of it. And the noise of it – the rumble of cement mixers, the ring of pickaxes, the muffled boom of explosions…the clank of railway trucks moving up and down the line… And the sight of it, wherever one looked in the eerie dim yellow light: the moving sea of striped uniforms, an undifferentiated mass unless one made an effort to fix one’s eyes on one of the pale, emaciated figures that were hurrying everywhere.” The tension builds as an exciting but deadly cat-and-mouse game takes place in which Kay and her colleagues – slide rules and logarithm tables at the ready – race against time to locate the launch sites of the V2 rockets so that bombing raids can be launched by the RAF. War is never straightforward and Kay, in particular, lets her feelings override her judgment resulting in unintended consequences for others. I found Graf an especially interesting character. He becomes increasingly appalled by the use to which the technology he helped develop is being put and the motivations of those higher up in the command chain. “He felt himself to be like one of the rockets – a human machine, launched on a fixed trajectory, impossible to recall, hurtling to a point that was preordained.” The end of the book sees him faced with a similarly difficult moral choice. In V2 Robert Harris once again blends historical fact and fiction to produce a fascinating and utterly gripping story. 

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Pool

    Synopsis This is a curious hybrid. The star of the story is the eponymous German V2 rocket/long distance bomb. This is a fascinating bit part of the German war effort between 1943-4. Its one that (pun intended) flies under the radar in the teaching of English history at school. There are bombs galore in WW2, and the London Blitz; even the ‘doodlebugs’, but rarely the V2. Harris’s storytelling revolves around Kay Caron- Walsh, a doughty WAAF gifted with mathematical and geometrical skills providin Synopsis This is a curious hybrid. The star of the story is the eponymous German V2 rocket/long distance bomb. This is a fascinating bit part of the German war effort between 1943-4. Its one that (pun intended) flies under the radar in the teaching of English history at school. There are bombs galore in WW2, and the London Blitz; even the ‘doodlebugs’, but rarely the V2. Harris’s storytelling revolves around Kay Caron- Walsh, a doughty WAAF gifted with mathematical and geometrical skills providing the British with dollops of derring-do; and for the Germans, Rudi Graf, a scientist and specialist in rocket propulsion. An occasional appearance comes in the shape of the true life Wernher von Braun. Even with a small cameo role, von Braun dominates every scene in which he appears. The V2 itself was a staggering technological achievement for its time. Their manufacture (in Nordhausen, prior to transportation to Peenemunde Holland) was truly ghastly. Jewish prisoners were enslaved to produce these beasts underground. The V2 travelled at 3,500 miles per hour, and crossed the 23 miles over the English Channel in 65 seconds. A V2 landed in Holborn 4 minutes 51 seconds after take off. In addition to the true life Von Braun, Harris also includes the true life Kammler (a madman) who ran the V2 facility (Heidelager) in Poland. Highlights  Subject Matter. The V2 (Vengeance) bomb/rocket. This is why I read this book; and Harris does get down and dirty in the forests of Holland to convey the scale, and menace, and danger of this weapon. There are some great internet sources on the V2, but as ever with Wikipedia and straight historical fact, this can be rather dour. Harris does a good job  Book structure. The book is not a straight linear telling (from Peenemunde in 1932 through to the war end in Scheveningen in 1945). The reflective Graf, and the insight into his consciousness as he looks back to teenage years, his brushes with the Gestapo and his friendship with Von Braun, is well done and elevates the storytelling in a way that a more sequential account might not. Lowlights The human interest that centres on Kay to add a bit of human interest is standard fare that could be overlaid onto any historical fiction novel. Kay and her flighty (new) friend, Barbara; Kay and the local lad; Kay and the bigwigs of the MOD in London. Graf is a much more reflective person, and better; but he seemingly acts on his free will at times in circumstances that beggar belief and ultimately render him an unconvincing characterisation of a German soldier. I haven’t read other Harris novels but I hope this isn’t just another rendering of the renegade good guy who finds himself on the wrong side? Historical & Literary context • Danesfield house Marlowe. I was particularly delighted that Danesfield House (aka RAF Medmenham appears in the book (where the RAF Intelligence was based during WW2 studying pictures/ photography brought home from aerial surveillance). I stayed over at the House for a company Christmas party two years ago and it hasn’t changed too much in the interim. The great wood panelled rooms are exactly what you imagine as the setting for wartime plotting. • There is a complete, undamaged (a rarity) V2 rocket at London’s Imperial war Museum Imperial War Museum in the main entrance hall. • Two wonderful books on the V2 bomb are Michael Chabon’s Moonglow , in which Von Braun again features strongly in a fictional familiy biography. Then there's the incomparable Thomas Pynchon Gravity’s Rainbow Author background & Reviews Harris hardly matches the standard profile of author. He is politically active and was fulsome in support of Tony Blair until a falling out between them. Controversially he has been a defender of, and film collaborator with, Roman Polanski, the disgraced Hollywood film director. Harris has also lashed out at the publishing industry, and the famed “literary” Booker Prize “I think the Booker sucks the oxygen out of the air“ (An appropriate description for the moments before a V2 bomb landed)! Harris can afford to sound off. He is commercially very successful. He has been writing published novels since 1992, some of which have been filmed. His chosen area of specialisation- Germany and the Nazis, and ancient Rome. Are sensible choices for a historical fiction writer since the subject matter never seems to see any loss of public interest. Harris’s most renowned work include: Fatherland (1992); Enigma (1995); Archangel (1998) Pompeii (2003) and an acclaimed trilogy about the life of Cicero Recommend As a Harris one - off I would certainly recommend V2. I don’t think his female characters are especially well written, and there are acts of defiance that beggar belief; but overall it is a decent enough (if not Booker worthy!!) novel.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Maine Colonial

    Anyone familiar with the history of World War II in Europe knows about Germany’s V1 and V2 rocket attacks on Britain, especially London. Robert Harris personalizes that history by a dual narrative, inserting two fictional characters into the battle between the rocketeers and British defense and intelligence forces. On one side is Dr. Rudi Graf, a longtime friend of the famed Wernher von Braun, who has dreamt since boyhood of making rockets to explore space. When the Nazis take power, von Braun f Anyone familiar with the history of World War II in Europe knows about Germany’s V1 and V2 rocket attacks on Britain, especially London. Robert Harris personalizes that history by a dual narrative, inserting two fictional characters into the battle between the rocketeers and British defense and intelligence forces. On one side is Dr. Rudi Graf, a longtime friend of the famed Wernher von Braun, who has dreamt since boyhood of making rockets to explore space. When the Nazis take power, von Braun feels no qualms about snuggling up to them to gain funding for rocket research and development. Graf is far more reluctant, but he joins von Braun in the Nazis’ war of “wonder weapons.” Kay Caton-Walsh is an officer in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, focusing on aerial reconnaissance, until she gains an assignment to a team focusing on battling the V2 rockets. Graf increasingly understands the horror and futility of the rocket war and his role in it. Kay’s character is less developed, but Harris describes her situation and the plot around her well. Harris says he wrote this book during lockdown. He’s always been a wonderful storyteller, but it’s still impressive that he turned out this book so quickly. It’s not a complex novel, but it tells a good story and that’s very welcome these days. The audiobook reader, David Rintoul, was very good, as usual. I like the way he voices women. Rather than using a falsetto, which I always think sounds like the Monty Python guys masquerading as females, Rintoul just smooths his tone, and slightly elevates his pitch.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Charlie Hasler

    Harris at his best. For me, this is up there with the likes of Fatherland or Archangel Absoultley loved it. Harris at his best. For me, this is up there with the likes of Fatherland or Archangel Absoultley loved it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Keith Currie

    V for Vengeance Robert Harris always chooses imaginative and fascinating topics for his novels. Where these work out well in the plots, such as in the Cicero novels, An Officer and a Spy or Fatherland, then the novels are a treat for the reader; when he is less successful (in my opinion), for example in resolutions of Conclave or The Second Sleep, the novels still remain intriguing and thought-provoking. I worried V2 might fall into the second category when I began to read, but far from it. The st V for Vengeance Robert Harris always chooses imaginative and fascinating topics for his novels. Where these work out well in the plots, such as in the Cicero novels, An Officer and a Spy or Fatherland, then the novels are a treat for the reader; when he is less successful (in my opinion), for example in resolutions of Conclave or The Second Sleep, the novels still remain intriguing and thought-provoking. I worried V2 might fall into the second category when I began to read, but far from it. The story of the deployment of the Germans’ last secret weapon and the attempts by the British to thwart the attacks is told at a breakneck speed over the period of four or five days and nights. The two protagonists, WAAF officer Kay and German engineer Graf only meet in the final pages, but their stories are exhilarating and moving throughout. The roles of women in the British war effort and scientists in the German hold the interest and the twin tales are gripping, even if the resolutions come swiftly. I have sometimes enjoyed a Robert Harris novel but have felt let down by the ending (Conclave is a case in point), but I am so pleased that this one ended exactly as it did. Wholly satisfying.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Dolf Patijn

    V2 by Robert Harris is a well-crafted, well-researched WWII novel about the deployment of the V2 ballistic rocket in the final few months of the Second World War. The German side is represented by fictional rocket engineer Dr. Graf and the British side by fictional WAAF officer Kay Caton Walsh. Graf is located in the Dutch seaside town of Scheveningen from where the V2s are launched and Kay lives and works in London when we first meet her. This book is quite different from his WWII thriller Enigm V2 by Robert Harris is a well-crafted, well-researched WWII novel about the deployment of the V2 ballistic rocket in the final few months of the Second World War. The German side is represented by fictional rocket engineer Dr. Graf and the British side by fictional WAAF officer Kay Caton Walsh. Graf is located in the Dutch seaside town of Scheveningen from where the V2s are launched and Kay lives and works in London when we first meet her. This book is quite different from his WWII thriller Enigma, which was a lot tenser and had more of a whodunnit feel to it. V2 is an atmospheric historical novel with thriller elements, certainly a page-turner in which the chapters alternate between the characters, with flashbacks that give more insight into the lives of the characters and the development of the V2 programme. If the Nazis had been given more time for development of the rocket and had been able to drag the war out for another few years, this could have been turned into a formidable weapon, but now it was too little, too late, as far as the war effort was concerned. Unfortunately about 9000 people were killed by the rockets, about 7,250 of them in England and a lot of properties were also destroyed. About 12,000 labourers were killed in the making of the rockets. The Nazis saw it as a revenge weapon to retaliate for Allied bombings on German cities but gave a lot of false information to their citizens about the effectiveness of the weapon. After the war, most of the surviving rocket scientists were shipped to America in what was called “Operation Paperclip” where they continued working on rocket programmes, resulting in space flight and eventually a moon landing. This was a great read that gives a lot of historical detail and has a nice mix of fictional and real characters. The V2 was the first ballistic rocket and we can only be thankful for the fact that Germany, even though they had a nuclear programme, could not produce a nuclear warhead towards the end of the war because the Nazis would have tried to use it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Joanne

    (Guest review - from my husband) V2 is a wonderful novel. Completely fantastic. Harris’s style is effortless and intimate, leading the reader not just to the site of the action but into it through the delight of the characters bringing the story to life. Set in November 1944, Europe was in its sixth year of the Second World War. In the summer that year, Allied forces had broken out of the Normandy Beachheads and began pushing East through Europe. Events were beginning to turn irrevocably in favou (Guest review - from my husband) V2 is a wonderful novel. Completely fantastic. Harris’s style is effortless and intimate, leading the reader not just to the site of the action but into it through the delight of the characters bringing the story to life. Set in November 1944, Europe was in its sixth year of the Second World War. In the summer that year, Allied forces had broken out of the Normandy Beachheads and began pushing East through Europe. Events were beginning to turn irrevocably in favour of the Allies and Hitler would commit suicide in five months’ time. German morale was low and they needed success from their wonder weapon, the V2 rocket. Firing these from the Dutch forests rained vengeance on London. Robert Harris is a master at bringing history to life with vivid description and most importantly, through such rich and endearing characters taking the reader right to the heart of the action. The humanity in the story leaves us rooting for characters in both the British and German sides, with the plucky British heroine, Section Officer A. V. Kay Caton-Walsh – “Kay” – stoically determined to play her part in the war and locate the launch site of the V2 rockets in the Dutch forests, countered by the idealist Dr Rudi Graf who dreamed of developing of rocket travel to the moon, but is struggling with the destructive output from the V2 programme and the gruelling intensity of the launches. The description of a V2 rocket strike, hitting Chancery Lane in London, seemed particularly vivid for me as I’ve worked in an office in that lovely part of London. It felt voyeuristic reading the chilling five minutes of flight after launch, travelling at nearly three times the speed of sound, Harris has the reader doing the literary equivalent of hiding behind the sofa – the scene shifting from rocket launch, switching to an ordinary day in London life, back to rocket in flight, with the inevitability of the strike hitting the characters being watched. The vulnerability and bravery of Londoners who had survived the Blitz becomes clear as they have to face a new fear of the V2 rocket - terrifyingly real and chilling. Harris paints additional colour into the story with a wide cast of supporting characters, such as the creepy womanising Wing Commander Leslie Starr – whose hands earn him the nick-name “wandering Starr” who is happily countered by the brilliantly intimidating matriarchal Flight Officer Sitwell with whom most people and their attitudes do not in fact… sit well. On the German side, Sturmscharführer Biwack from the National Socialist Leadership Office joins the V2 launch team in order to “boost their morale” and gives such a sense of immediate threat and fear with his Gestapo SS position that many times throughout the book, I stopped to draw breath, realising that the freedoms we enjoy today, take for granted today, were won by many brave men and women, on both sides of the war, fighting for these beliefs and values. This is a powerful story, told expertly through a rich platoon of characters and draws compassion for both sides. V2 is a wonderful tale of Victory and Vengeance. I highly recommend it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Varun Oak-Bhakay

    I would recommend all of Harris’ work that I’ve read (Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel, The Ghost, The Fear Index, An Officer and a Spy, Munich even) over V2. For me to do the latter, you’d have to fire one of the rockets at me. After having traversed a post-apocalyptic world in The Second Sleep, Robert Harris, best known for his varied works of historical fiction, returns to the past, choosing to stop in the year 1944, and turning to the sub-sections about the German missile program and the women w I would recommend all of Harris’ work that I’ve read (Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel, The Ghost, The Fear Index, An Officer and a Spy, Munich even) over V2. For me to do the latter, you’d have to fire one of the rockets at me. After having traversed a post-apocalyptic world in The Second Sleep, Robert Harris, best known for his varied works of historical fiction, returns to the past, choosing to stop in the year 1944, and turning to the sub-sections about the German missile program and the women who donned the uniform in service of King and Country. Rudi Graf is an engineer who, along with his friend Wernher von Braun, wanted to reach the moon. His nation’s rulers decided that his skills would be better utilised in trying to strike London and Antwerp, much closer to Germany than the lunar surface. Graf thus finds himself in Occupied Holland, launching rocket after rocket in the winter of the war, with Allied victory pretty much guaranteed despite the Market Garden disaster. Across the pond is Section Officer Kay Caton-Walsh, a WAAF officer whose work involves interpretation of aerial reconnaissance photographs. Kay is everything you expect a protagonist to be in a novel involving war – young, eager to do their bit, wanting to live life to the fullest in times where it can be cut short tragically (a danger more potent than ever before once the rockets start hitting London). The V2 rocket, the world’s first long-range guided ballistic missile, is one of the Second World War’s lasting military legacies. The Great War was where aerial warfare and armoured vehicles were experimented with, on a large scale, for the first time. The War that followed would see more scientific experiments in terms of weaponry: the V2, travelling faster than the speed of sound, would be one of those, as would the atomic bomb. It was also an exercise in pointlessness from a German perspective – the launches started in September 1944, by which point in time the Allies were already in mainland Europe, heading towards the Reich. From a more human point of view, a greater waste of life in the production of weaponry in wartime would be difficult to find than the V2, which claimed fewer lives than those lost building them. By all means, this should be an exciting novel, but the plot is strangely inert and dead on arrival. The elements don’t move forward, and it feels hurriedly written, bereft of the detailing that Harris usually takes care to weave into his work. It doesn’t feel complete, nor does it have even the slightest complexity in it. Too straightforward, too easy. Just meh, really. Any complexity in the novel is from a character standpoint: in Graf, there is the strange cynicism that came to embody much of the German spirit towards the end of the war. He is also the most perfect prototype for a German of the time, the kind who kept their mouths shut and played nice with the Nazis to avoid confrontation – the guilty by inaction variety, if you will. As the novel progresses, Graf becomes more and more disillusioned with the rocket he has helped create. Kay is pretty much every novel war hero ever, but her gender and the nature of her work – involving a ton of mathematics – mean that there is a lot for Harris to go into with the character. He writes her well enough, keeping the tropes that embody such a protagonist while embellishing the narrative with pointed comments about women in uniform at the workplace, rationing of food and clothing, and such like. Kay is never made out to be a damsel in distress – not at home, certainly not overseas. She’s just another one of the thousands of women who answered the call of their country. The characters apart, there are a few moments here and there which are vintage Harris – immaculately detailed and narrated, but they are too few and far in between to have any real impact. The narrative itself is dull. The short bits of suspense that pop up once in a way are an illustration of just what could have been had there been more happening. More at Varun Oak-Bhakay's Writer's Block

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jacki (Julia Flyte)

    Once again Robert Harris has taken known historical events and turned them into a compelling story. In this instance he's writing about the German V2 programme in the final years of WW2 and the British efforts to destroy the launch sites. I knew nothing about the V2 programme, which involved long range missiles fired at London from the Dutch coast. I didn't even realise that the German had bombs that weren't dropped from planes. So I really enjoyed learning about this part of history as well as Once again Robert Harris has taken known historical events and turned them into a compelling story. In this instance he's writing about the German V2 programme in the final years of WW2 and the British efforts to destroy the launch sites. I knew nothing about the V2 programme, which involved long range missiles fired at London from the Dutch coast. I didn't even realise that the German had bombs that weren't dropped from planes. So I really enjoyed learning about this part of history as well as the story itself. As in Munich, Harris alternates chapters between a German and a British character. Dr Rudi Graf is a (fictional) engineer on the V2 project, working alongside many real life individuals. On the other side is Kay Caton-Walsh, working in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force and part of the team who are using radar to try to locate the V2 firing sites. I particularly liked Kay's chapters which are tenser and more cinematic - the German chapters included a lot of background information about the V2 and Rudi was a less interesting character. The book is both immaculately researched and extremely readable. While it's missing the x factor that puts a book into the "can't put it down" category, it's still a fascinating read.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ruben Vermeeren

    2,5 How can a World War II spy novel about ballistic rockets be so boring? I like Robert Harris a lot and ever since his brilliant Cicero trilogy I tend to read every book as soon as it comes out, but this was rather a waste of time. There is an interesting story at the basis: the V2-rockets the Germans fired from my beloved The Hague to London towards the end of the war. I knew nothing about this and it was interesting to learn about it. It seems Harris had the idea to construct a spy plot arou 2,5 How can a World War II spy novel about ballistic rockets be so boring? I like Robert Harris a lot and ever since his brilliant Cicero trilogy I tend to read every book as soon as it comes out, but this was rather a waste of time. There is an interesting story at the basis: the V2-rockets the Germans fired from my beloved The Hague to London towards the end of the war. I knew nothing about this and it was interesting to learn about it. It seems Harris had the idea to construct a spy plot around that basic fact, but it is maybe a thin and the plot is a bit simplistic. In the Acknowledgements, he confirms he worked 14 weeks on the book - maybe he should have dedicated a bit more time...

  17. 5 out of 5

    Iain

    A compelling book from an author cruising along on top form. If anything, I would have liked it have been longer, which can only mean I was enjoying the journey.

  18. 4 out of 5

    RG

    I enjoyed the historical aspect more than the actual story itself here. I haven't read many Harris novels before. However will undoubtedly read more of his backlog after this

  19. 5 out of 5

    Forthbridge

    Other reviewers have outlined the plot better than I could so I will stick to my impression of how interesting, informative and credible the book appeared to me. I think it ticked all the boxes very well indeed and I feel that the author is at the top of his game. There are heroes and villains on both sides and a certain amount of pinging of suspender straps ( and even a hint of lesbian action ) which could have been pretty naff in the hands of a less good writer. The description of the group of Other reviewers have outlined the plot better than I could so I will stick to my impression of how interesting, informative and credible the book appeared to me. I think it ticked all the boxes very well indeed and I feel that the author is at the top of his game. There are heroes and villains on both sides and a certain amount of pinging of suspender straps ( and even a hint of lesbian action ) which could have been pretty naff in the hands of a less good writer. The description of the group of women thrown together tracking the rockets felt authentic and as always the British class system came into play. < Pedantry alert: Have I spotted a possible blooper - a Flemish character named Guillaume Vermeulen? Guillaume in Flanders, hein? >

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Rightly hailed as a consummate storyteller, Robert Harris has released a lockdown-honed explosive WW11 story, focusing on the invention, manufacture and utilisation of the German V2 rocket, fired on London and Antwerp from 1944 onwards. Told through the perspective of both German and British characters, this is a fascinating recreation of the last months of the war. At its centre are engineer Dr Graf, an increasingly reluctant participator in the German war effort, and Kay Caton Walsh, a WAAF off Rightly hailed as a consummate storyteller, Robert Harris has released a lockdown-honed explosive WW11 story, focusing on the invention, manufacture and utilisation of the German V2 rocket, fired on London and Antwerp from 1944 onwards. Told through the perspective of both German and British characters, this is a fascinating recreation of the last months of the war. At its centre are engineer Dr Graf, an increasingly reluctant participator in the German war effort, and Kay Caton Walsh, a WAAF officer, inspired by the real-life Eileen Younghusband who worked in Mechelen on the mathematical calculations needed to inform British reprisals after rocket attacks on London. This is a meticulously researched story. Whilst, occasionally, the technical details get in the way of the narrative, the author’s ability to plot, structure, inform and imagine results in a thoroughly compelling read. How fascinating, too, that a machine associated with all that is hateful, manufactured to terrify and destroy, would also inspire post-war space exploration. My thanks to NetGalley and Random House UK, Cornerstone for a copy of this novel in exchange for a fair review.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Martin Jones

    This book is an account of the development and use of Germany’s V2 missiles during World War Two. The story is told through the eyes of a pair of fictional characters; Rudi Graf, a senior German engineer supervising V2 launches against London from forests in the Netherlands; and Kay Caton-Walsh, a young WAAF officer, involved in an effort to trace V2 launch sites by calculating the missiles’ trajectory. The book’s action only coincides with a few months towards the end of the war, but through Gr This book is an account of the development and use of Germany’s V2 missiles during World War Two. The story is told through the eyes of a pair of fictional characters; Rudi Graf, a senior German engineer supervising V2 launches against London from forests in the Netherlands; and Kay Caton-Walsh, a young WAAF officer, involved in an effort to trace V2 launch sites by calculating the missiles’ trajectory. The book’s action only coincides with a few months towards the end of the war, but through Graf’s memories we witness the whole of V2’s history. His recollections begin poignantly with a group of 1930s, sci-fi loving students flying rockets from waste ground near Berlin. The fun ends when the military come calling. Money and facilities are on offer, because rockets could make missiles. The group’s leader Wernher Von Braun, judges that working with the military is a price worth paying as a stepping stone to eventually building a rocket that can reach the moon. The V2 is his reward. But the price is appalling, in terms of money, but more importantly in terms of lives lost - thousands of people died building the thing, twice as many in fact, as died because of the weapon’s use. The book continues to the war’s end, when the German V2 engineers give themselves up to the Allies, and negotiate their subsequent lives building rockets for the American military and NASA’s space program. So this is a book about lost innocence and awful compromise, where decent people end up doing bad things. There are a lot of contradictions like that. We get the situation of Kay, for example, who as a woman can only observe the big world of major decisions and seemingly significant acts. Even though she is in the RAF, a bone shaking flight to Belgium where the Air Force has its V2 tracking operation, is her first time in an aircraft. And yet her quiet calculations are as vital as the firing of any gun. A similar ambivalence surrounds the V2 itself, which cost so much in terms of money, lives and energy, and yet in some ways was not significant historically. At vast expense, it could only carry one ton of explosives, whereas a much cheaper British bomber could carry six tons - and thousands of those bombers flew over German cities every night in the latter part of the war. But just to add another layer of contradiction, the V2 did influence developments in weapons and space travel in a hugely significant way after the war. This brings me to the most striking contrast in the book, the one between exact mathematics, which go into building or tracking V2s, and all the chaos surrounding them. Both Graf and Kay find relief from their wartime lives in the reassuringly exact numbers of their work. And yet in other circumstances numbers are not so comforting. There’s a mathematical-like ruthlessness to Von Braun’s calculations about what compromises he has to make to get his rocket built, for example. Now I’m going to make a claim for this book, which I don’t make lightly, because fancy claims can easily crash to Earth in an embarrassing manner. But in my opinion this book is a fascinating argument for what novels have to contribute. A novelist cannot make a rocket fly, or track one in flight, but a novel is much better at accommodating contradiction than maths. Novels are good at ambivalence - a novel can even portray maths as ambivalent. In life things are rarely one thing or another, as we see at the end of the book when former combatants from different sides meet to talk. There’s even a hint of romance between Kay and Graf! A novel won’t offer the analytic geometry necessary to get to the moon, but it will offer a little moonlight, softening hard lines - and maybe we need more of that.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sandra Danby

    Mostly written during the 2020 virus lockdown, Robert Harris’s ‘V2’ is a World War Two thriller like no other I have read – and I’ve read a few. I’ve been a Harris fan since the beginning with ‘Fatherland’. ‘V2’ is different because it tells two stories – the technical development of the V2 rockets, and five days in November 1944 when the lives of a German rocket engineer and British spy are changed by this weapon. Harris skilfully handles truth, fiction, engineering details and mathematical calc Mostly written during the 2020 virus lockdown, Robert Harris’s ‘V2’ is a World War Two thriller like no other I have read – and I’ve read a few. I’ve been a Harris fan since the beginning with ‘Fatherland’. ‘V2’ is different because it tells two stories – the technical development of the V2 rockets, and five days in November 1944 when the lives of a German rocket engineer and British spy are changed by this weapon. Harris skilfully handles truth, fiction, engineering details and mathematical calculations, adding two fictional characters to create a page turning story. The V2 rocket is placed firmly at the centre of this book. Without it, there would be no story. Originally conceived by scientists as a space project, the V2 was a hateful weapon that inspired fear. Unlike its predecessor the V1 which could be seen and heard before it descended giving time to take cover, the V2 hit without warning. It was also highly unreliable, going off-target, exploding at launch, crashing at sea, killing the people who built it – slave labourers – and launch crews. The story opens as rocket engineer Dr Graf is trying to concentrate on pre-launch missile checks on the Dutch coast at Scheveningen. He is interrupted by the arrival of a Nazi officer. The rocket is launched. In London, WAAF officer Kay Caton-Walsh emerges from a bathroom wrapped in a towel. Her assignation with her married lover ends when the V2 lands on their building. Harris’s tightly plotted story sees Kay moved from London-based photo reconnaissance, studying launch sites of the rockets, to Mechelen in Belgium. There she and a team of female mathematicians calculate the flight trajectory of the rocket, tracking it backwards to identify the launch site for Allied fighter-bombers to target. As Dr Graf is pressured to launch rockets more frequently than is safe, Kay can’t shake the feeling she is being followed through the strange shadowy streets of Mechelen. Occasionally the technical details get in the way of the story but what is most fascinating are the portrayals of the German and British leadership at a time when the end of the war seemed to be approaching. Doubts and regrets by some on the German side are balanced by fanatical demands and obsessive management from the SS. In London, key decisions about the defence of the nation are influenced by an extra-marital affair. On both sides, the men at the top making the decisions seem apart from real life. An excellent read, it is a race against time as Kay and her colleagues try to identify the launch locations and Dr Graf is questioned by the Gestapo. I raced through it. I was fascinated to read the Author’s Note at the end, explaining the inspiration behind the book. In September 2016, Harris read an obituary in ‘The Times’ of 95-year old Eileen Younghusband, formerly a WAAF officer at Mechelen. Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-revie...

  23. 4 out of 5

    Unseen Library

    I received a copy of V2 from Penguin Random House Australia to review. Rating of 4.25. One of the most talented historical fiction authors in the game, Robert Harris, dives deep into the history of the infamous Nazi V2 rocket program in his latest novel, V2. In November 1944, while the Allies advance on Berlin, the Nazis are desperate to avoid defeat at all cost. Placing his hopes in new technology, Hitler funnels vast resources into his V2 rocket program, the most sophisticated weapon on the plane I received a copy of V2 from Penguin Random House Australia to review. Rating of 4.25. One of the most talented historical fiction authors in the game, Robert Harris, dives deep into the history of the infamous Nazi V2 rocket program in his latest novel, V2. In November 1944, while the Allies advance on Berlin, the Nazis are desperate to avoid defeat at all cost. Placing his hopes in new technology, Hitler funnels vast resources into his V2 rocket program, the most sophisticated weapon on the planet. The V2s are powerful ballistic missiles capable of delivering an explosive warhead deep into enemy territory at immense speeds. Hitler has ordered the production of 10,000 rockets and from an isolated forest in occupied Holland, the Germans launch them towards London, causing immense damage. Rudi Graf is a German scientist who has long dreamt of sending rockets to the moon, and who now regrets his role in the creation of the V2. Stationed at the V2 launch site, Graf desperately tries to hang onto his humanity as he watches his dream cause only destruction and death. At the same time, in London, Kay Caton-Wash, an officer in the WAAF, is experiencing the full horror of the V2 rockets as she barely survives one of their strikes. Over the course of five days, these two strangers are about to be connected by their circumstances. As Graf is forced to launch even more of his rockets at London, Kay becomes involved with a secret mission to locate and destroy the V2 launch sites in Holland. Travelling to Belgium, armed with only a slide rule and some equations, Kay works to end the V2 menace once and for all. However, danger and duplicity are around every corner, and both Graf and Kay soon begin to realise that they cannot trust anyone. As both rush towards their destinies, their actions will have unintended consequences on the over, changing the course of history forever. To see the full review, click the link below: https://unseenlibrary.com/2020/09/23/... An abridged version of this review ran in the Canberra Weekly on 17 September 2020: https://unseenlibrary.com/2020/09/23/... For other exciting reviews and content, check out my blog at: https://unseenlibrary.com/

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    V2. Robert Harris. iBook. 17/9/2020 pre ordered. The short for this book was obviously written by someone who neglected to read the book....depends how important you find details! But basics like names! WWII....settings England, Germany, Poland, Belgium, The Netherlands.... British Kay left university and joined the service! Her observational skill and abilities with mathematics placed her with interesting groups assisting surveillance carrying out studying of photographs and later in Belgium us V2. Robert Harris. iBook. 17/9/2020 pre ordered. The short for this book was obviously written by someone who neglected to read the book....depends how important you find details! But basics like names! WWII....settings England, Germany, Poland, Belgium, The Netherlands.... British Kay left university and joined the service! Her observational skill and abilities with mathematics placed her with interesting groups assisting surveillance carrying out studying of photographs and later in Belgium using calculations to ascertain the paths of the launched V2 rockets with a rank of officer. Using these skills enabled sorties of planes to attempt to destroy the launching areas for the V2s. German Graf met von Braun in school, two young brains similar in their love of engineering and space, lead them to creating rockets. Fall of 1944 Dr Rudi Graf now a rocket engineer is launching Nazi Germany's V2 rockets at London from Occupied Holland. Kay Caton-Walsh, now a young English Intelligence officer, ships out for Belgium to locate the launch sites and neutralize the threat. But when rumors of a defector circulate through the German ranks, Graf becomes a suspect. Unknown to each other, Graf in The Netherlands and Kay in Mechelen Belgium find themselves on opposite sides of the hunt for the saboteur. Their twin stories play out against the background of the German missile campaign, one of the most epic and modern but least explored episodes of the Second World War. Their destinies are on a collision course. And the writer really pulls these stories together in the context of history .... The details, without excessive description are very interesting but considering this rocket was an engineering marvel, that after the war became crucial to various countries to develop various projects, including major space exploration, it’s a good idea to tackle a read of Wikipedia about V2 rockets. Fascinating! That combined with the fact I live in the area of what they refer to as occupied Holland where the Germans positioned themselves to launch the rockets to London and where the British then managed to bomb and cause a good deal of destruction still referred to today, and marked near me, made this a very interesting good read! At the end of the storyline the writer tells of writing this book during lockdown for Covid-19 and then he expands on various sources and research for the book and about V2 rockets. Very interesting. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_... https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20... https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/V-2_r... On 3 March 1945 the Allies attempted to destroy V-2s and launching equipment in the "Haagse Bos" in The Hague by a large-scale bombardment, but due to navigational errors the Bezuidenhout quarter was destroyed, killing 511 Dutch civilians. Churchill sent a scathing minute to General Ismay requesting a thorough explanation for "this extraordinarily bad aiming". Netherlands * One example, partly skeletonized, is in the collection of the Nationaal Militair Museum. In this collection are also a launching table and some loose parts, as well as the remains of a V-2 that crashed in The Hague immediately after launch.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    V2: A Novel Of World War II by Robert Harris is a fascinating historical novel set over just four days in November 1944. Robert Harris has used his knowledge to create a fictional story set around Germany’s V2 missiles. The novel is written from both the German and English point of view with alternating chapters. The reader sees life in London, Oxfordshire, the Netherlands and recently occupied Europe. It is a marvellous novel enabling the reader to understand some of the complexities of war. Ther V2: A Novel Of World War II by Robert Harris is a fascinating historical novel set over just four days in November 1944. Robert Harris has used his knowledge to create a fictional story set around Germany’s V2 missiles. The novel is written from both the German and English point of view with alternating chapters. The reader sees life in London, Oxfordshire, the Netherlands and recently occupied Europe. It is a marvellous novel enabling the reader to understand some of the complexities of war. There is the theme of trust – remembering that ‘loose lips sink ships’, war work was classified. The reader witnesses lies being told to both sides in order to keep up morale. By November 1944 the Nazis were in retreat but no one would admit this for fear of imprisonment or worse. Not all Germans were Nazis. Those who were not, had to tread very carefully. Women had a role to play in war as well as men. Keen mathematical brains and those with an eye for detail were needed. War produces character on both sides. We see just what people are made of. All the characters were well drawn. I gravitated towards the leading lady. Robert Harris has perfectly captured the atmosphere of fear and helplessness in the face of the V2 whilst also having the indomitable bulldog spirit. V2 was my first novel by Robert Harris and I definitely want more by him. The historian in me was fascinated. The lover of fiction was entertained. V2 was a compulsive read that I could not put down. I received this book for free. A favourable review was not required and all views expressed are my own.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Gill

    What a story! I really enjoyed this book. Yet while it is fictional, and the characters are fictional, it is based on fact and incredibly well researched fact at that. For me, I actually found the acknowledgements at the back of the book the most poignant out of everything I read because it is these acknowledgements that made me realise how close this story was to what really happened during the war. This wouldn’t normally be my choice of reading. It came up on Netgalley and I thought it sounded What a story! I really enjoyed this book. Yet while it is fictional, and the characters are fictional, it is based on fact and incredibly well researched fact at that. For me, I actually found the acknowledgements at the back of the book the most poignant out of everything I read because it is these acknowledgements that made me realise how close this story was to what really happened during the war. This wouldn’t normally be my choice of reading. It came up on Netgalley and I thought it sounded really good. I’m not normally that keen on books that are set in a backdrop to WW2 but this was a thriller and sounded a little different. I read a book last year that surrounded the women who were in the WAAF (Women’s Auxilliary Air Force) but that was a more romanticised version of events. Very different to this book, but obviously I didn’t realise that until I was well into the pages of this book. Would I have chosen it had I known it was going to be so technical? Probably not, and yet I found the whole story absolutely fascinating. There is a lot of technical detail in relation to the V2, how it worked, how it was developed, then there was the maths….. but even for a non science person I did find it very interesting. The author has obviously done a lot of research and found it equally interesting to be able to explain it and put it into reasonably understandable layman terms. The story is told from two different view points. A lot of the book is spent with Graf who, having developed the science behind the V2 is heavily involved in the launches of the bomb attacks, overseeing the last minute checks before they’re deployed. However he becomes ever more disillusioned with it all as his interest originally lay in space travel. It was his friend von Braun who sold the idea to Germany that they could develop a bomb capable of huge destruction but only with an ultimate dream of fulfilling his ambition to develop a space rocket. The other part of the story involves the British side and the involvement of Kay-Caton Walsh an Officer in the WAAF who was originally tasked with studying photographic reconnaissance to try to locate where the bombs were being launched from, which after proving fruitless hit on the idea of retracing the bombs trajectory path back to where it came from using maths. Like I said before it is quite a technical story but don’t let that put you off, it’s well worth getting your head around because it’s so interesting. I could go on and on about this book, it’s just so good. It kept me engrossed and the end just makes you think about everything. Not just about World War II but about more recent times, those at the top, so far removed from reality that they still act with stupidity and give no thought to the consequences of their actions for the wider good. Man just never learns! I read an ARC of this book via Netgalley

  27. 5 out of 5

    John Lee

    I have read most of the authors previous books and enjoyed them all. I admire the way he can transport you with his writing whether it is to Imperial Rome, Paris and Devils Island around 1900, futuristic Exmoor, a post German-won WWll or as here , the final throws of a defeated German force in 1944/5. In each I have admired the research that must have gone into making the characters in each so realistic and believable. In each there has been a riveting story to drive your reading on for many hour I have read most of the authors previous books and enjoyed them all. I admire the way he can transport you with his writing whether it is to Imperial Rome, Paris and Devils Island around 1900, futuristic Exmoor, a post German-won WWll or as here , the final throws of a defeated German force in 1944/5. In each I have admired the research that must have gone into making the characters in each so realistic and believable. In each there has been a riveting story to drive your reading on for many hours after you would have closed a lesser book and gone to sleep. That is until this one. The characters are still there. You understand their actions and motivations- even though you may not agree with them. The situations too were real enough and you could almost even smell the action. Unfortunately , for me, it was the main storyline that failed this time - almost like one of the hastily prepared rockets. A couple of times it looked as if there might be an attempt to energise it but nothing developed. May be too much detail was included in places which added a documentary feel in part. For some authors my 3* would be something to which to aspire. For such a well researched and well written book by one of my top authors, I am afraid it was a disappointment. Sorry. However, this wont stop me grabbing his next as soon as I can get my hands on it.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Peter Evans

    It’s winter 1944 and Adolf Hitler can see defeat on the horizon, but he has one last desperate shot at changing defeat in to an unlikely victory. The V2 missile, a rocket that can reek devastating carnage, and the German hierarchy hope it will be enough to turn the tide. This is a novel seen though the lives of two people. Rudi Graf a brilliant scientist who’s dream is to send a rocket to the moon, but instead he is in charge of the V2 program in a miserable Dutch town. Kay Caton-Walsh has just be It’s winter 1944 and Adolf Hitler can see defeat on the horizon, but he has one last desperate shot at changing defeat in to an unlikely victory. The V2 missile, a rocket that can reek devastating carnage, and the German hierarchy hope it will be enough to turn the tide. This is a novel seen though the lives of two people. Rudi Graf a brilliant scientist who’s dream is to send a rocket to the moon, but instead he is in charge of the V2 program in a miserable Dutch town. Kay Caton-Walsh has just been on the receiving end of the carnage caused by the missiles and wants to help put a stop to it. She joins WAFF in Belgium. Armed with her math skills and a slide rule, the hope is that she can locate the launch site the enemy is using and destroy it. Destiny will draw them together with the most epic of endings at the most desperate of times. The author creates a poignant atmosphere with the most vivid scenes and powerful characters. His writing is just sublime and he truly is a master of his craft. Robert Harris’ storytelling is in a league of its own and ‘V2’ is written with such aplomb you will not be able to put it down. A novel that can only be described as breathtakingly brilliant.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bill Lawrence

    I've read most of Robert Harris's books and generally I feel they are somewhere between good and brilliant, but I feel that the last two have been at least disappointing. I enjoyed Munich a lot and felt I gained new insight to the period and lead up to the WW2. As a child of the 'space race', addicted to the the Apollo missions, rockets and WW2 seems like a great mix. Harris's research seems excellent and no arguments with that. [Interesting side note, a surprising number of fiction books I've r I've read most of Robert Harris's books and generally I feel they are somewhere between good and brilliant, but I feel that the last two have been at least disappointing. I enjoyed Munich a lot and felt I gained new insight to the period and lead up to the WW2. As a child of the 'space race', addicted to the the Apollo missions, rockets and WW2 seems like a great mix. Harris's research seems excellent and no arguments with that. [Interesting side note, a surprising number of fiction books I've read this year with bibliographies.] However, I just never really felt that Harris found the story to hang the research on. Using the alternating point of view chapter structure can pay dividends, but often can just interrupt a good narrative. In this case, I don't think there was a good narrative to interrupt. Neither primary character has enough development or space to move around in. There are very few dramatic moments, despite being in the middle of war and a war zone and even the central narrative drive feels abandoned, as do many of the plot devices. As one would expect from an author like Harris, it is never less than readable, but, sadly, nothing to get excited about either.

  30. 4 out of 5

    AdiTurbo

    I enjoyed learning more about the V2 project and the counter-measures against it, but I found this novel all in all rather mediocre. It certainly did not have the brilliance of Harris' earlier work, which is something I keep seeing in his last few books. They are not very suspenseful, do not have the original plots of Fatherland, Enigma or Archangel, and the characters get very little work, which leaves them quite flat and uninteresting. Harris would do better to get back to focusing on quality I enjoyed learning more about the V2 project and the counter-measures against it, but I found this novel all in all rather mediocre. It certainly did not have the brilliance of Harris' earlier work, which is something I keep seeing in his last few books. They are not very suspenseful, do not have the original plots of Fatherland, Enigma or Archangel, and the characters get very little work, which leaves them quite flat and uninteresting. Harris would do better to get back to focusing on quality rather than quantity.

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