Thursday, August 21, 2014

Assignment Prague - Helen Haught Fanick

Since I'm half Czech, stories set in Prague always catch my attention. So when I saw this book with the Charles Bridge on the cover, I was immediately intrigued.

Assignment Prague is set during World War II. The main character is Anton Janak, a Czech who is a member of the Resistance fighting against the Nazi occupation of what was then Czechoslovakia. As the book opens, Anton is participating in the nighttime parachute drop of a spy working for the OSS -- a woman whose mission is to infiltrate Nazi headquarters in Prague. But her chute fails, and she ends up with a broken leg and a concussion. Anton takes on the responsibility of caring for her, which not only entails getting her medical care and food, which are both in short supply, but also keeping her presence in his apartment a secret from everyone he knows.

The spy, whose cover name is Tereza, and Anton do their best to keep their relationship professional. But proximity and danger work their magic, and soon they find themselves falling for one another. When the danger heightens, each wonders whether their love will survive the war.

Fanick trained as a journalist, and it shows. I know from my own background how easy it is to fall prey to delivering just the facts, even when writing fiction. However, a novelist also has to portray the characters' emotions -- not just a description, but actually showing them feeling their feelings -- and I thought that was in short supply here. Because of it, I didn't get as close as I could have to Anton and Tereza. And because of that, the dramatic scenes didn't have the same punch to the gut that they should have.

Still, I liked Assignment Prague. If you like stories set during the time of the Nazi regime, you might want to give this book a try.

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