Show caption Mingling fiction with fact … Robert Harris. Photograph: Andy Hall/The Observer Audiobook of the week Munich by Robert Harris audiobook review – inside the backrooms of power David Rintoul is the authoritative narrator of this thriller about the negotiations between Neville Chamberlain and Hitler in the leadup to the second world war Fiona Sturges Fri 4 Feb 2022 12.00 GMT Share on Facebook
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A gripping account of the negotiations between Britain and Germany in 1938 before the outbreak of war, Robert Harris’s thriller – which has now been adapted into a film starring Jeremy Irons – focuses on the backrooms of power and peripheral figures working to avert catastrophe. At the centre of the story is Hugh Legat, a civil servant who, at the start of the novel, is dragged away from an anniversary lunch with his wife for a meeting at No 10.
Events take place over four tense days at the end of September, during which the prime minister Neville Chamberlain goes to Munich for talks with Hitler, who is intent on invading Czechoslovakia. On his return, Chamberlain famously stepped off the plane waving a written assurance of peace from the Führer, a moment that would come to stain his reputation. This is no alternative history in the manner of Harris’s Fatherland, though there are heavily fictionalised elements including Legat and his friendship with Paul von Hartmann, an old chum from Oxford who is now a diplomat at the Nazi foreign ministry.
David Rintoul is our steady and authoritative narrator, bringing suitable graveness to early conversations in London when war appears inevitable – Legat’s children have even been fitted for gas masks – and during which it is revealed that Britain’s air force is calamitously unprepared. As the action moves to Europe, Rintoul subtly evokes the toughness and veiled contempt of German officials without descending into theatrics (you’ll find no ’Allo ’Allo!-style accents here). Hitler would later say of the allied leaders: “Our enemies are little worms. I saw them at Munich.”
• Munich is available on Random House Audiobooks, 9hr 38min
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