Having enjoyed Robert Craven’s 2021 novel, “A Kind of Drowning” (see earlier blogpost), I was encouraged to go back a decade to the author’s debut book, “Get Lenin”. Set in Europe amid the tumult of World War II, the author introduces Eva Molenaar, a young Polish woman, brutalised by the craven (forgive the pun) behaviour of fascist thugs, but possessing language skills and beauty that can be used by the allied secret services. This first instalment of the heroine’s wartime adventures is an exciting romp, as the advancing German army threatens to capture Lenin’s Moscow mausoleum and in a potential propaganda coup, hold the icon to ransome.
The reader learned from the author’s blurb that Mr Craven started writing the book in 2006 and it took five years to complete. Still, in an exciting, fast-moving plot, the reader comes to learn about Eva and her serendipitous progress to fledgling spy and the well-honed story has clearly benefited from the original polish (sorry, can’t seem to help myself).
With Russia very much in the news, the repeated echoes of an “orgy of destruction” carry a contemporary poignancy, but while the backdrop is darkly familiar, the author’s focus on a woman’s wartime experience is both interesting and refreshing. More earthy than simply James Bond wearing nail varnish, in Eva, the reader glimpses a strong, determined woman, whose contribution to the 1940s struggle is both important and dangerous, but not without enduring the manipulation of spymasters willing to sacrifice all. Snatching romantic comfort in the most unlikely of situations, the tale is well-set for further episodes in this seemingly ever-fertile WWII soil. I look forward to Book 2 in the series, entitled “Zinnman” and the further development of the main character and her peers. I also wonder if the author has another such innovative plotline, around which to intrigue the reader with Eva’s ongoing adventures? Time will tell.