Cover Image: V2


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Member Reviews

Having never read a Robert Harris book I was worried that I would find it too think with historical detail to enjoy but I was wrong. Plenty of detail so that you feel like you actually learn and understand something but light enough to still be easy and quick to read through. I really enjoyed the changing perspectives between the characters and although a heavy subject I felt like I raced through this.
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Robert Harris
Four stars
If you enjoyed Robert Harris’ Enigma, Munich and Fatherland you’re in for a treat with V2, a novel set at the tail end of World War 2. In a last-gasp attempt to defeat the Allies, Hitler has embarked on a sustained bombing campaign using the deadly V2 rocket. 
Dr Rudi Graf is a German engineer whose dream has always been to launch a rocket to the moon. He finds himself co-opted into the Nazi death machine through his links to Wernher von Braun, the (real-life) head of the Nazi rocket programme. Increasingly he finds the brutality of the German offensive hard to stomach and finds himself under suspicion as a traitor. 
On the opposite side is Kay Caton-Walsh, a bright English intelligence officer who narrowly escapes death from a V2 while having a tryst with her RAF officer lover. 
Kay finds herself despatched to Belgium as part of a Woman’s Auxiliary Air Force team tasked with using maths to track the trajectory of the V2 in order to locate its launch site so that RAF bombers can demolish it. Inevitably Rudi and Kate are destined to collide. 
An atmospheric and pulsating novel, this is Robert Harris at his best.
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Immaculately presented WW2 thriller

The plot follows two storylines during the Second World War which come together at the end of the thriller. Kay Caton-Walsh is a WAAF who becomes involved in tracking the new V2 rockets falling on London. Rudi Graf is a member of the team, led by Wehrner von Braun, which developed the rockets although von Braun’s ultimate objective was reaching space.  The story follows the lives of both individuals along with the same timelines and it’s fascinating to be able to experience the thoughts and feelings of both about the same incidents.

It was a stunning read. The level of research was least, if it was fiction, it was believable. Harris manages to effortlessly capture the atmosphere of the time and the reader is effortlessly transported back to the 1940s. The level of detail is therefore mesmerising, but it never detracted from the enjoyment of the storyline.....merely enhanced it. I was a third of the way through before realising it, finished it in two sittings and felt huge regret and an almost tangible loss on reaching the last page.

I put off reading this book for several weeks as it didn’t seem to be the subject matter I would enjoy. How wrong can you be? Superb!

mr zorg

Elite Reviewing group received a copy of the book to review.
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I am not usually a big reader of historical or wartime fiction but I thoroughly enjoyed this book about the development of the V2 rockets and the attempts by the British to find a way to stop it. The historical fact and the fictional story are wonderfully interwoven and I felt I had learnt a lot about this well known aspect of the war. It also brings out the futility of war and is a reminder that the people on both sides are just people.
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I have to admit I am a great Robert Harris fan, I love his books and I was glad to get the opportunity to read this as a NetGalley Review book.

Robert Harris does it again with this book. It is another very enjoyable book covering a key part of the ending of the war, and it was clear by this stage in the war  Germany knew the gig was up and this was their last hurrah, but a very deadly hurrah. They may have been going down but were determined to take down as many people as they could in the process.

There were very enjoyable lead characters on both sides and I found out a lot about the V2 Rockets during this book, one of the reasons I like reading historical fiction. If I was to be hypercritical it was a touch short and came to a very quick ending, although that may be because I was enjoying the book so much and wanted it to go on and on.

I am very happy to recommend this book, having given it five stars. If you haven’t read this or the other Robert Harris books I would strongly encourage you to do so. I would like to say thank a very big you to Netgalley and the publishers for providing a copy of this book to me for an open and honest review.
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Robert Harris does do a good war story and this was no exception.  I didn't know much about the V2 before this and like the fact I'm learning something while enjoying a great story.  It was good to see how women contributed to the war effort as they are sometimes the hidden ones in all this and have come away wanting to read more about this time which often happens with his books.
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6/10 stars

Interesting, particularly with regards to the portrayal of Wernher von Braun, who by all accounts was a genius sociopath - or a sociopath genius. Here he is delegated to backstage, popping now and then with another bright idea, his obsession of reaching the stars pulling others into his orbit and somehow making them all lose their moral compass in the process. Von Braun in an SS uniform, presenting his ideas to Hitler, von Braun amiably conversing with the generals of allied forces, von Braun justifying all and any means by the glory of the perceived end... Making him a secondary character was a good decision - too much of the good thing would certainly spoil the end effect. And here, watching von Braun through the eyes of the disillusioned German scientist Rudi Graf, we see him in all his magnetic charm and utter ruthlessness.

I must admit I expected a bit more action and suspense - admittedly, technical details of sending a V2 rocket over London or the calculations of its point of origin don't make for a thrilling read. The main Allied character, Kay Connolly, is also somewhat of a conundrum: entangled in a doomed extramarital romance, she finds her way out of it through Belgium, where she is trying to pinpoint the location of the V2 launch pads by extrapolating its parabolic curve back to its origin point and promptly engages in another doomed romance - which was probably designed to give the whole plot a bit of much needed suspense, but resulted in making Kay a rather unbelievably dumb protagonist. Rudi Graf's story is more compelling of the two by far: finding himself drawn ever deeper into the war machinery of the Third Reich he becomes increasingly more depressed, disillusioned, and disgusted with himself, the war, and Nazi Germany. As an engineer, he knows full well that this last-ditch effort of peppering UK with V2 rockets is a doomed one; the war is already irrevocably lost, but is still waged because those who are most blinded by the mirage of the Thousand-Year Reich are those in power.

V2 belongs firmly to the genre of historical fiction - definitely feel much more at home there than with thrillers. It's rather slow-paced, with limited action sequences and almost no suspense. But for all those interested in this rarely discussed facet of WWII V2 is an entertaining and quite solid source of information.

I have received a copy of this novel from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks.
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Good historic suspense as expected, but definitely not his best book. Nonetheless I enjoyed reading it and already recommended it to customers.
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Rudi Graf used to dream of sending a rocket to the moon. Instead, he has helped create the world's most sophisticated weapon: the V2 ballistic missile, capable of delivering a one-ton warhead at three times the speed of sound. In a desperate gamble to avoid defeat in the winter of 1944, Hitler orders ten thousand to be built. Haunted and disillusioned, Graf - who understands the volatile, deadly machine better than anyone - is tasked with firing these lethal 'vengeance weapons' at London. Kay Caton-Walsh is an officer in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, and a survivor of a V2 strike. As the rockets devastate London, she joins a unit of WAAFs on a mission to newly liberated Belgium. Armed with little more than a slide rule and a few equations, Kay and her colleagues will attempt to locate and destroy the launch sites. But at this stage in the war it's hard to know who, if anyone, you can trust. As the death toll soars, Graf and Kay fight their grim, invisible war - until one final explosion of violence causes their destinies to collide. 

I always love the concepts of Harris' books but usually struggle with the actual read, not with 'V2'. From the beginning I was hooked, Harris completely immerses the reader in the history and then has an exhilarating plot to go with it. I loved how Harris explains the science behind the V2 as well as detailing the consequences of strikes. It was a really powerful way of writing, especially at the beginning and served to draw me in even further. 

Harris flits between chapters focusing on Kay and Graf. At different times of the book, I was desperate to get to one of these characters chapters and my preference kept changing as the events quickly changed. For me, this is a sign of a great read. As well as being a thrilling, intense read, I loved the history behind it all and Harris really evokes the atmosphere. 'V2' focuses on quite a small time period but oh my goodness does Harris manage to get excitement from it. 

My only negative is this ends all too quickly. As you would anticipate, events pick up towards the end and there are then consequences and follow up events to explore. Disappointingly, Harris does this in a couple of pages and it was a bit of an anti-climax. I would have loved if Harris had taken a bit more time to expand the ending. 

Putting this aside, I still thoroughly enjoyed 'V2' and this book is my favourite of Harris' recent offerings. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House UK for an advance copy.
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V2 is historical fiction with a solid factual framework. I like to know when I’m reading historical fiction how much is history and how much is fact. So, I was pleased to find that at the end of the book Harris has included a list of the sources he consulted on the history of the V2 and how it worked, including the work of the photographic reconnaissance interpreters, before writing V2. In particular he acknowledges Eileen Younghusband’s two volumes of memoirs – Not an Ordinary Life and One Woman’s War. She had worked as a WAAF officer on the Mechelen operation, working on detecting the location of the V2 launch sites, and her memoirs had provided him with a vivid insight into her wartime life. Without them he would not have written V2.

It’s set over five days at the end of November 1944 as the Germans fired V2 missiles on London from the woods around Scheveningen on the Dutch coast. The British response was a counter-operation, including a team of WAAFs. The cast includes some historical figures such as Werner von Braun, the real-life head of the Nazi rocket programme, and SS-General Hans Kammler. It’s told in alternating chapters from two of the fictional characters’ perspectives – Dr Rudi Graf, a rocket engineer on the V2 team and Kay Caton-Walsh of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. Kay was part of the team based at Mechelen using radar to try to locate the V2 firing sites. Harris emphasises that his fictional character, Kay, bore no resemblance to Mrs Younghusband, apart from the fact that she worked on the Mechelen project.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel, learning a lot about that period of the Second World War and about the V2. It is detailed and tense, and very readable, describing the intricate details of the launching of the V2s and Kay’s work, which became increasingly dangerous as their location became known to the Germans.

Many thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for my digital proof copy.
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'V2' shares many of the features of Harris' successful previous novels - a wartime setting, ordinary people drawn into extraordinary circumstances, strong female and male leads.  But it lacks the tension and page-turning intensity that elevate other books of his into top notch literary thrillers.

The action takes place over a short period in the final winter of World War II and is told in alternating chapters between the viewpoint of a German engineer and a British WAAF officer.  Graf's job is to successful launch V2 rockets from the remote Dutch coast to hit London.  Kay's job is to prevent the launches by identifying the launch sites..  Both are unremarkable people who would not have chosen this life - Graf particularly is clearly not a Nazi, although he goes along with their requirements. 

It's a perfectly reasonable book - the prose is readable, the historical detail seems sound (not that I'm any expert) and the characters are likeable.  But there's nothing very special about it.  I didn't love the characters and I wasn't all that invested in them.  Despite the peril inherent to a wartime setting, I never found it particularly exciting.  Harris is capable of writing extremely gripping thrillers, but in this case he just doesn't.  

The first part in particular read more like a history novel with a bit of fiction thrown in, particularly as Harris references survivor accounts from many years later.  I understand his intention, which was to acknowledge the reality and real deaths behind this novel, but it makes it a less effective book by pulling you out of the narrative and reminding you it's fiction.  Things did improve from this point of view later on, although it still seemed too factual and technical..  The careful framing within real history is another factor that undermines the tension - everyone knows more or less how things panned out and you don't care passionately enough about the fictional protagonists to feel any real anxiety about their individual fates.

Overall it's an interesting book and not badly written but I can't give it more than three stars.  I think it's more for those who particularly like wartime history and books set in this era, than more general readers.
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I enjoyed this book such a lot. 

Set in WW2, the story centres on the V2 missile - rocket science at its most advanced at the time.

The story is shared between two central characters - Kay, a WAAF officer who finds herself in Belgium doing algebraic equations to calculate the launch sites of the V2; and Graf, a V2 rocket engineer who's responsible for the launching of the weapons from the Netherlands to London.

Although fiction, the story is close to history, with the character of Kay having been created after Robert Harris read an obituary of a WAAF officer who had done just these activities - I love it when books link themselves to reality in this way. This book is not in any way technical, the characters are key and thoroughly engaging.
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Impeccably researched, this is an author who takes his subject and his readers very seriously. A fascinating story makes this book a worthy addition to my WW2 thriller collection.
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Should Robert Harris ever decide to change career there is a role for him as a teacher. In V2 he brilliantly makes the complex simple. By the time you complete this book you will realise you have learnt an awful lot about ballistic missiles, how to track them if you can calculate the arc of their flight and why rockets, in general, are so incredibly dangerous at lift-off.  |However, this acquisition of knowledge has been effortlessly absorbed as you're really just enjoying Harris' exciting story of a WAAF officer who joins a team in Belgium tasked with trying to source the launch sites so the RAF can bomb them out of existence. The V2 was a last throw of the dice by the Germans which ultimately was destined to fail. But, before then it caused terror in London as there was never any warning of its arrival as it fell silently from the sky with its deadly 1 ton explosive payload. An exciting as well as informative read.
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After having been hit by a German V2 and her affair with a high rank staff member of the ministry almost exposed, Kay Caton-Walsh, officer in the WAAF, asks to be transferred to directly contribute to the fight against the new super weapon of the enemy. Her wish is granted and so she finds herself with dozen of women in Mechelen, Belgium, where they are trained to calculate the origin of the rockets. These are launched from the Netherlands under the surveillance of Dr Rudi Graf who once dreamt of sending rockets into space and was fascinated by his and his friend Wernher von Braun’s advances in science. But since the Nazis have taken over their skills and inventions, he not only feels increasingly uncomfortable but serious questions what he has done.

Altogether, the V2 killed more than 4,000 people, wounded more than 10,000 in London and Antwerp and destroyed thousands of houses in the British capital. Robert Harris has again chosen a historical topic for his novel which outlines the human character in a complicated world. One might expect the Second World War and the Nazi regime to become finally a bit boring, Harris, however, just as in other books before, turns it into a suspenseful story with interesting characters entangled in the contradictions of their time.

The author addresses several core questions while the novel is fast paced and gripping from the start. The German engineer who never intended his creations to be used to kill people but was fascinated by space travel and what by diligence and an inventive talent could be created. Seeing what has become of his dream, he has to make a lonely decision and to come to terms with his role in the war. 

On the other hand, Kay is full of patriotism and ready to risk a lot to participate in the fight against the evil, terrorising missile.  Quite astonishingly, it is a group of women who do the complicated calculations when mathematics were considered the supreme discipline of men. Yet, their competences do not hinder their male colleague from looking down on them. She is also the one in contact with the local population who is torn between the fronts and after years of occupation not sure whom to trust anymore.

Even though the whole plot is centred around the missile, it is the human aspects which render it interesting and thought provoking. Just as in his other novels, a brilliant combination of fact and fiction which is a terrific read and informative, too.
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This is a historical novel set in World War 2 that will appeal to many as it balances the factual with the fictional.
Harris writes with a degree of emotion and involves the reader on a personal level but, I have to say, this is more technical than many of the other WW2 novels I have read. This could make it slightly less popular with those looking for a heavily emotionally involved storyline but, on the other hand, more popular with those who like the history of the mechanical warfare from that era. The title is certainly appropriate. 
Thank you to NetGalley and Hutchinson Books for this copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Robert Harris is congenitally unable to write anything that is not immersive entertainment, be it contemporary or historical, and in "V2," he returns (after a detour into the 15 century with The Second Sleep, see my review here) to World War II. As Hitler rushes to pound London with Werhner von Braun's revolutionary V@ ballistic missile, the war's outcome seems to be in the balance. As he usually does, Harris immersively plonks us in the skins of two opposing souls, a brilliant, jaded German rocket engineer supervising launches from the Dutch coast, while an enterprising WAAF English woman rushes to Belgium to join a ragtag team attempting to triangulate the V2 launch sites. Of all of Harrris's sophisticated cleanly written novels, V2 reminded me most of his Pompeii. As in that historical novel, we know the outcome of V2 but the strength of narration and tone sweeps us forward in excited thrall. Simply splendid.
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I love Robert Harris novels; you can always rely on meticulous research, brilliant characterisation and a storyline to keep you gripped to the final page.
In this one, we learn about the final, desperate steps taken by Nazi Germany, even as the Allies push across France and Belgium, to attempt to destroy the British capital and morale. It's an aspect of WW2 I had almost zero knowledge about and was amazed to learn all took place so late in the course of the war,
The story is told both from the perspective of a WAAF officer and a German engineer, who both crave the end of the war and to be able to do the right thing. Their lives are made real to us by revelations of personal events and behaviours, stuff we'd recognise as all too human. That both have the ending we wish for them is just the icing on the cake in this marvellous novel.
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I enjoyed this story of a small group of women adding the war effort. Both the British and German sides were well portrayed, and the descriptions and pacing were excellent. I have enjoyed other books by Robert Harris and this one definitely didn’t disappoint.
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A fascinating look at the development and use of the V2 rockets by the Germans during the Second World War. Highly detailed and informative, the story is from two perspectives: the young German who reluctantly is involved with the V2 and the bombing of London, and an English woman, based in Belgium, who is trying to decipher where the bombs will land and how to prevent the damage and loss of life.

Both of the central characters share the idea that neither of them are comfortable in their surroundings, feeling as though they don't fit in. The German engineer wanted to put a rocket on the moon, not destroy London. The English woman is having an affair with her married senior, which creates added tension and awkwardness, especially as the affair becomes public knowledge. The affair isn't a significant feature as ultimately, this is the story of the V2 with a perfect blend of fact and fiction, with a seamless description of life at that time.

Harris is a great storyteller and it is easy to get caught up in the tale because of his  excellent writing style. However, V2 is classed as a thriller, which it isn't, not until the last quarter of the book. A great read for those who are interested in the use and development of the V2.​
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