Jackdaws by Ken Follett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I have read very few novels about female espionage so this was something new for me to read.
Also, I adore Ken Follett's writing so I gladly gave this book a go. (It helps that I got it for cheap at a used book store.)
As usual, Follett's writing sucked me right in. I read the book in 2 1/2 days and probably could have read it in one had I not been so busy.
We're introduced to Flick, our protagonist who is a strong spirited petite British woman, working as an operative in France during WWII. She has connections to resistance fighters all over France which becomes obvious to Dieter Franke, a German intelligence office who makes it his mission to capture her.
The book is set over a series of nine days, I believe, so everything happens very quickly as it paves the way for D-day. All the characters are both hilarious and endearing simultaneously. As Flick struggles to pull together a team of women for her mission into the heart of France, we meet these characters who bring their own joie de vivre that excels in this novel. There's a transvestite, a murderess, an aristocrat who is a crack shot, etc. There is no end to the strange yet lovable players in this story.
I'm also fairly certain that many of the details Follett supplied are historically accurate, so you're learning something about WWII espionage while enjoying a good read.
So for all my sparkling praise of this novel, why did I only give it 3 stars?
First off, the sex scenes. Yes, as always, Follett manages to slip some in and they unfortunately come off as a very awkward and misplaced. The intimate scenes in The Pillars of the Earth were far better written and much more plausible. In Jackdaws there were this horribly penned moments between Flick and her newly introduced squeeze Paul that are just so...cringe inducing.
Second, the dialogue was often inappropriate for the time era. Since Follett tried to keep historically accurate with all his details, why were the character's line so strangely misplaced in that time era? He also throws around the word "fuck" a few times and very needlessly. Instead of helping the plot or character development, it just cheapened what he was doing.
Thirdly, I felt that even though I did enjoy the plot, everything tied up far too neatly. There were many close calls for Flick, lots of red shirts being randomly tortured and killed by Nazis, but yet everything ends up working out perfectly at the end of the novel. Do I want there to be a sad ending? Not necessarily, but it didn't seem logical that Flick and her lover Paul would both survive those arduous nine days. Perhaps Follett needs to learn how to pull a George Martin: his novels may be more memorable if he kills off some lead characters.
I did really really enjoy this book, but the strange sex scenes put me off enough to give it a lower rating. I will definitely continue to read my way through Follett's novels--hopefully they aren't all so awkward.
View all my reviews