From the publisher:
The first rocket will take five minutes to hit London.
You have six minutes to stop the second.
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.
Rudi Graf is an engineer who always dreamed of sending rockets to the moon. But instead, he finds himself working alongside Wernher von Braun, launching V2 rockets at London for the Nazis from a bleak seaside town in occupied Holland. As the SS increases its scrutiny on the project, Graf, an engineer more than a sol – dier, has to muster all of his willpower to toe the party line. And when rumors of a defector circulate through the German ranks, Graf be – comes a prime suspect.
Meanwhile, Kay Caton-Walsh, a young English intelligence officer, is living through the turmoil of war. After she and her lover, an RAF officer, are caught in a V2 attack, she volunteers to ship out for newly liberated Bel – gium. Armed with little more than a slide rule and a few equations, Kay and her colleagues hope to locate and destroy the launch sites. But at this stage in the war it’s hard to know who, if anyone, she can trust.
As the death toll soars, these twin stories play out against the background of the German missile campaign during the Second World War. And what the reader comes to understand is that Kay’s and Graf’s destinies are on a collision course
Robert Harris’ latest novel touches on a subject grounded in World War 2 that, while familiar to most people has not generally been touched upon. This is the development of the V2 rocket by Germany which was utilized to bomb both London and Antwerp. While regular bombing runs by planes killed many more people and did considerably more damage to cities it was the silent approach of the V2 and its sudden attack that probably was more frightening.
Germany was losing the war and had lost a great deal of their airpower in combat when Hitler began looking for a weapon that would turn the tide in his favor. The V2 seemed to offer a possible answer and investment in the process came from both the German nation as well as independently from the army. First attempts at using the V2 were from Peenemunde but then moved to a point closer to both Antwerp and London in occupied Holland.
Harris utilizes two people; one German the other British to focus on telling the story. Willi Graf, by education, is a rocket engineer and is stationed at the launch site for Germany. He freely states that his interests do not really lie with the use of the V2 as a weapon but as a step in the direction of space travel. He does do his job in helping the rocket achieve its place as a weapon of war. Kay Connolly is British and although once an actress is now an intelligence officer. She is recruited for a position with a group to be stationed in Belgium that will attempt to develop systems to destroy the V2launch system.
The novel goes back and forth between the two individuals recreating the duel between those firing the V2 and those that are working to try and stop them. Harris brings both protagonists to life for the reader. We learn about their personal interests and of course, their interests in making the work they are involved in helpful in advancing the war effort. Werner von Braun a key individual in the American rocket program after the war has his place as the officer in charge and the guiding light for the German effort. Descriptions of the technical side of building a successful rocket are there and written in language that is understandable by the reader allowing him or her to more fully enjoy the novel. Certainly, a five-star book and one continuing Harris’ position as an author at the top of his game.
12/2020 Paul Lane
V2 by Robert Harris. Knopf (November 17, 2020). ISBN: 978-0525656715. 320 pages.