Book Review: An Officer and a Spy

One of the things about myself that I have learned since graduating and finally getting to read what I want to, is that I love historical fiction. Which is really odd because I wasn’t the biggest fan of history in school (from the beginning all the way through college) and I think I took one history class while in college. But it’s true. I find it fascinating. Maybe it’s the personal touch from reading from someone’s point of view instead of cold hard facts or maybe it’s the embellishment that adds more life to the story. Whatever it is, I’ve been digging in. An Officer and A Spy was recommended to me by GoodReads due to my interest in Erik Larson books, and I think the recommendation was spot on. If you’re familiar with European history, specifically French history, then the Dreyfus Affair will be familiar, which is the basis of this novel.  For those of you who may slept through this section of World History, the Dreyfus Affair in short was a political scandal in which Alfred Dreyfus, a French soldier, was accused and convicted of treason and sent to solitary confinement on Devil’s Island. The “scandal” part of the story is that he was innocent and when evidence of who was the real traitor came to light, the French military began an elaborate cover-up to frame Dreyfus instead of convicting the true traitor.

An Officer and A Spy begins at the public degradation of Dreyfus, and follows Georges Picquart, a French Officer, recently promoted to head of Counter Intelligence, as he slowly begins to bring to light the details surrounding Dreyfus’ conviction. The evidence, or lack there of, against Dreyfus uncovers the real spy but Picquart quickly discovers that maybe that’s not the goal anymore and is forced to make decisions for or against his moral standing and for or against his country.

It’s a spy novel with real substance. Even knowing the ending didn’t keep me from reading more and more into the night, wondering the fate of Picquart and his clandestine investigation. It’s historical fiction done right and I recommend reading it if you can give it the time. Here’s the GoodReads summary and reviews if you wish to read more about it.

If I knew how to say “Have a good read” in French, I would. But, instead, all I have is Bon Voyage! Close enough.

“It is better to have your nose in a book, then in someone else’s business” -Adam Stanley


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