Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Title: Jackdaws
Author: Ken Follett
Published: 2001, NAL
Category: General Fiction
Rating: 7/10
I'm trying to branch out and read more books by men, so I picked up this book, my first by Ken Follett. (NOT that I think books by men are more intelligent- Argh! Go Jane, go!--I'm just trying to broaden my horizons a bit.) I was thinking I could claim extra points because Jackdaws set in a war, but then I realized that the main characters are women, so maybe not. :)

Felicity (Flick) Clairet is an intelligence agent for the SOE during WWII. She's managed to stay alive longer than any other agent, mainly because she's really smart, ruthless, and relies heavily on her good instincts. Right before D-Day she's sent to France with a team of French resistance organizers to blow up a German telephone exchange. They are not successful--most of their group is killed, and Flick barely escapes back to England. Flick is determined to return to finish the job, as destroying the exchange would seriously cripple the enemy's ability to communicate during the coming invasion. She decides to put together a team of women to pose as the cleaning staff. The trouble is there are very few female agents, and those few are all assigned elsewhere. So she's forced to make do with the "rejects," women who were considered at one point for secret work, but passed over for some reason. She ends up with a very motley crew: an aristocratic snob, a pathological liar, an elderly engineer, a convicted murderer, and a male transvestite. They undergo a whirlwind 2-day training session and head to France for the dangerous mission.

The reason I picked this book up was the intriguing plot, and it surely delivers. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading--very exciting and suspenseful. The violence was upsetting to me, but then this is a book about war, so that's to be expected. "This is war, Peacock! You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, every cook will tell you." (Does anyone else love the movie Clue?) There are some truly unsettling torture scenes that I had to skim--they're not horribly graphic, but they were tough on me.

The characters are more interesting and complex than you often find in an adventure-type story. There's a German officer named Dieter Franck who is trying to stop the French resistance and who is determined to catch Flick. He is fascinating--you want to really hate him, because he's the bad guy and he tortures people. But he's not a sadist, he doesn't get off on it--he's disgusted by it and does feel remorse afterward. He just sees it as a necessary tool to get what he needs, and he is able to shut off his emotions and be completely cold to get it done. Flick is just as ruthless at times, though her motivations come off as more virtuous. She is a great heroine though--very brave and clever.

There's a little side love story that's very nice. Wartime romances are so dramatic!

So, I was entertained. And it was a nice break from my usual fare. :)


CindyS said...

I'm trying to branch out and read more books by men

*gasp* Whatever for!!?? ;)


Samantha said...

Hmmm, i might give this book a shot. And holy shit to that article by Gelsomino. I hate when people write things meerly for shock value.

Jennie said...

Cindy--LOL! Sometimes I need a break from my usual. ;)

Samantha--I guess that's why she wrote it. I wish she's have responded to all the comments about it---that could have been entertaining.

nath said...

This sound interesting :) I should try to do the same as you Jennie and branch out :P good initiative :)

Kellie said...

I love Ken Follett. Lay Down with Lions is good- set in pre-taliban afghanistan ... mostly because it was written then! And Pillars of the Earth is all right too. He always throws in sex- ala Harold Robbins. ::bobbing eyebrows::

A co-worker suggested Jack Daws awhile back and I've been meaning to read it as well ...

Oh and I usually go with something different too when I get in a slump- seems to cleanse the pallette.

Jennie said...

Nath--I was burnt out on romance/women's fiction so this was a nice change of pace!

Zeek--You're right, it does cleanse the pallette! I was thinking I might try Pillars of the Earth--did you know he has a sequel to it coming out? Next fall, I think.

Kellie said...

Hmmm I didn't know that! I may have to read it, although I'd have to refamilarize myself with the first ... been awhile since I read it.