Archangel by Robert Harris

Interesting book. You’d figure I’d like it since it’s about historians and discovering lost secrets of the past (but not in the infinitely stupid way that Dan Brown does it).

But, there are problems.

Fluke Kelso is an expert on Soviet history who gets drawn into a chase for the lost diaries of Joseph Stalin.

He, like man of Harris’ heroes, is a sort of specialist everyman: he has that one skill, history, but Harris is trying to make him relatable to the audience really hard. He’s divorced, he’s out of shape, he’s scared all the time. The point gets hammered over the readers head a bit.

The plot moves slowly for the first half, before being turned to 11 for the rest. Seriously, it all ends rather fast, like Harris just skipped through the third act as quick as he could. Much of the supporting characters get lost done for space in this way. We have four really, Fluke, the American reporter, the Russian whore and the secret service agent. Beyond that, they’re all place holders. But the four are well written, their motivations, their thinking.

The overall plot, while walking the thin line between reality and insanity, never gets too stupid or unbelievable. The ending kind of sucks, a bit anti-climactic, but that’s often par for the course with Robert Harris.

The main thing that I liked about Archangel is its description of contemporary Russia, a nation that is unable, or unwilling, to let go or deal with its murky past. History is a deadly serious business in the new Russia, and the reader is never in doubt of this fact. It might all be archives and dusty books at home, but Harris describes a world where looking too deep or knowing too much about the past can have fatal consequences. Moreover, Harris also manages to bring the figure (and ghost) of Stalin to life.

But still, a lot of problems. It goes too fast, and the rapid explanation of some of the plot aspects towards the end is unsatisfying in the extreme. One for fans of Harris (and Soviet history) to pick up. Others might not appreciate it as much.

This entry was posted in Books, History, Reviews and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Archangel by Robert Harris

  1. Anne Newman says:

    Didnt understand the end connection of whore to Stalin junior

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