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Richard's Feet

1 rating: 5.0
A book by Carey Harrison

British playwright Harrison's spellbinding tale focuses on two rollicking decades in the life of a WW II-era Cornish cad who assumes the identity of a dead ex-Nazi.  Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out … see full wiki

Tags: Books, Cafe Libri
Author: Carey Harrison
Publisher: William Heinemann Ltd
1 review about Richard's Feet

Anglo-Irish Misfit Finds His Niche in Post War Germany

  • Feb 11, 2001
Powerful prose and a naively blundering protagonist characterize this vast tale of pre-war hankering and post-war stumbling as Richard Thurgo, a young and reluctant London solicitor, gets sucked into a world which is never quite what it seems. Drawn to the Hamburg region of Germany as a young man, in the nineteen thirties, through the glamorous goings-on of a somewhat mysterious elder brother, the young Thurgo discovers a sense of comfort in the dark German countryside that he never found at home. Still he manages to stumble about and disgrace himself and lose what he most wants while there.

Back in England he tries to make a go of things before and during the years of conflict with Hitler but, when the war is finally won, he finds himself suddenly yanked away again, this time to a world of intrigue on the Mediterranean, courtesy of a dead relative. Smuggling, war-contraband and a case of mistaken identity suddenly give Thurgo a chance at a new life (and, perhaps, to revive what he had before the war) so off he goes to defeated Germany under an assumed identity where his pre-war facility with the German language enables him to pass himself off as a native. There he falls in with all sorts of reckless and feckless fellows, on the margins of cold-war politics, espionage and Hamburg's growing underworld, where he makes a place for himself, though it is never the one he thinks he has made. In the end he rises, more by accident than design, to be a kingpin in that underworld, though he is ever an outsider and a man who gets the signals wrong.

This is a tale of losing and finding and losing again, filtered through the clumsy and groping soul of a British expatriate who, for much of the tale, seems to forget he is English. But English he is and the homeland exerts a relentless tidal pull upon him at the end. This Thurgo is a sensitive soul, if lost and awkward in his dealings with others, as clumsy in his relationships with those around him, as he is physically: an overlarge and somewhat uncooordinated fellow whose imposing size stands him in good stead as lieutenant to a Hamburg gangster with a Nazi past. Thurgo, too, slides in and out of the Nazi shadow, abetted at times by unseen hands from home and in the British secret service in the occupied German territories.

From youth to aging underworld kingpin, Righard Thurgo conducts us on his magical mystery tour of a life which is as alien to him at the end as it was at the beginning. He is never clear why he gave up what he had for the German persona he adopted but in the end he cannot hold onto that either, or to any of those whose lives touched his. He is the lost ship which has slipped its moorings, wandering about on the open sea, wind-driven and storm tossed, a man of reflection in a body and world demanding action. And so he is a reluctant actor in that world, an always astute, if perversely unperceptive, observer of the activities around him. This is a big book and one which is filtered through the unreliable eyes of an unreliable spirit but it is rife with insight and recreates a world of new beginnings though these beginnings don't offer solace, in the end, to the soul which sought them.

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