Sunday, February 17, 2013


HHhH, Laurent Binet, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2012, 327 pp

Facts: Laurent Binet is French. This is his debut novel and won the Prix Goncourt for a first novel in 2010; the French equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize. The book I read is translated from French and is on the Tournament of Books list for 2013.

Opinions: Anyone who can write a historical novel set during World War II and do something new is alright with me. Laurent Binet bravely, perhaps recklessly, put himself as author into the story, all very meta-fiction, and created an absorbing read.

It was cool to go straight from reading The Russian Debutante's Handbook, set partially in modern Prague, to reading HHhH, set in 1939-1942 Prague. The title is an acronym for "Himmler's Brain is called Heydrich." If you don't know who Himmler and Heydrich were, don't worry. Binet is a teacher by profession and knows how to teach history while making it exciting.

This is a tale about assassination and bravery and evil Nazis and war and people. Despite the authorial intrusions, or maybe even because of them, there is not a dull moment or paragraph. In fact, the intrusions create suspense.

I have not had this much enjoyment from historical fiction since I read Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall. I have gotten the biggest benefit so far from pushing myself unmercifully to complete the Tournament of Books list by March.

(HHhH is available in various formats by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)


  1. Judy, thanks for linking this in to Books You Loved. Cheers

  2. very encouraging! Binet and Mantel are 2 great authors

    1. Yes Emma! Enjoy your read and I look forward to your review.