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This novel examines what people are willing to risk for love and freedom. A thrilling almost-spy novel, it leads you to the heart of 1968 Prague, just before the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to accidentally get caught up in a potentially dangerous spy mission, this is the book for you.
A mashup of road trip novel and literary character study, the story begins in the summer of 1968. It’s the summer of love — even, for a while, in communist Czechoslovakia. As tensions rise between Moscow and Prague in the background, this story follows the misadventures — romantic and otherwise — of two groups of people.
There’s an on-again, off-again British couple — somewhat spoiled college students — who cross the Iron Curtain on a lark as they listlessly backpack through Europe. And there’s their opposite, a group of Czech youths, eager to test the boundaries of the Czechoslovak ‘socialism with a human face.’ These disparate characters find themselves in an unexpected friendship with a British diplomat, and soon they’re all facing life and death choices.
Mawer writes with ferocity and authentic detail. His step-by-step account of the backpackers crossing a communist border is chilling. When the Soviet tanks roll into Wenceslas Square on the page, your heart will pound.
While this story is set against a detailed background of politics and history, it’s full of life and humanity. There’s plenty of intrigue, interpersonal sparks, romance, adventure, and irresistible descriptions of Prague, as well as a cast of characters who will stay with you long after you turn the last page.
‘Socialism with a human face. Isn’t that wonderful? An ideal. Something to believe in.’
‘I don’t think so,’ says Frau Eckstein drily. ‘I think I have already seen too much of idealism and belief to have any faith in either.’ — Simon Mawer
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