HHhH is unlike anything I have ever read; based in Prague in 1942 the story centralises around two Czechoslovakian parachutists that have been sent on a secret mission to kill Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the Nazi secret services. HHhH is Binet’s debut novel and what an accomplishment it is securing both the ‘Prix Goncourt Du Premier Roman’ and the ‘Prix des Lecteurs du Livre de Poche.’  The novel is the product of Binet’s desire to recall a story he heard in his childhood that fascinated him and embedded itself deep in his mind. Whilst telling, primarily, the parachutists tale Binet’s narrative strays in to other individuals lives and manages to encapsulate Hitler’s rise to power .However, even if Binet does stray the reader is always brought back to Prague giving the sense that Binet has merely lead the reader down a twisting alley only to end up back with the parachutists on the corner of a cobbled street stood waiting for the Hangman of Prague. 

Interestingly the novel is classed as fiction, all the characters and events in the book are real but Binet makes the conscious decision to invent dialogue and occasionally succumbs to the temptation to make things up. However, when doing so he remains entirely conscious of his intervention and makes the reader aware that he is blurring fact and fiction as well as breaking standard narrative boundaries and challenging the notion of writing fact without the injection of fictional elements. However, it is these elements that make HHhH a charming read, Binet’s passion for the story shines throughout and you can tell just how many times it has been played out in his imagination. Binet wants to tell it as close to fact as possible, to flourish it with fiction would diminish what is truly a thrilling story.

I enjoyed the post-modern feel to this novel and the way Binet places himself within the text, explaining the problems that he encountered and the way he researched certain aspects. The aspect of this narrative I most enjoyed was when Binet places himself on the streets of Prague or amongst the parachutists. This helps to create a sense of tension and suspense that keeps the pages turning. The outcome of the book is made clear from the very beginning but it is how events reached that climax that enthrals the reader. The chapters in HHhH are very short sometimes only containing one fact or piece of information which makes the story easier to follow and enjoyable. HHhH is definitely a book I am going to read again and I would recommend it to anyone who likes history or to those who simply enjoy a good book.

By Eleanor Boyce

by for www.femalefirst.co.uk
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