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The Partisan

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Member Reviews

What a roller coaster of a debut novel. Switching from WW2 Lithuania to the 60s where spies from Russia and Britain are battling it out, this is a fast paced and highly enjoyable read. All cleverly interlinked, populated by believable characters, this is one to have at the top of your to read pile.
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Great read Cold War thriller. Two chess players Michael and Yulia from different sides of the Iron Curtain meet and fall in love. It is a time of great tension and fear. The world could be hurtling to nuclear catastrophe and the two young people find themselves caught up in the game of spies and killers.,
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There can not be a better metaphor for the cold war than the game of chess. But more than the metaphor, of course, was the very real rivalry between the West and Russia across the chess board. Both of these aspects are used by Patrick Worrall in his Cold War debut The Partisan.
There are lots of moving parts in The Partisan. The book opens with a woman called Greta, a Lithuanian partisan during the Second World War who now works with the Israelis, tracking down and killing former Nazis. A thread of the story set in 2004 has Greta telling the story of her war and the two Jewish fellow partisans who she ran with in the forests of Lituania. Back in 1963, young English chess player Michael finds himself at an international chess competition and besotted with Russian chess prodigy Yulia. This is a bit of a Romeo and Juliet situation as Michael’s father is a senior member of the British secret service and Yulia is the daughter of a high flyers in the Soviet scientific and political hierarchy. Yulia and her family are also in the crosshairs of the head of the MGB Karpov, a man who is also on Greta’s hit list for his violent activities after the Russians re-occupied Lithuania during World War 2.
It takes a while for Worrall to get all of his pieces onto the board but once he does the plot plays out like a game of chess. There are moves and counter moves, sacrifices and long term plays. While young lovers Michael and Yulia are in the middle of the action they are more pawns in the hands of much more powerful players. Worrall weaves the pasts of all of the main characters into the narrative, leading to some clever last minute reveals.
The Partisan is a classic Cold War tale, down to the centrality of chess in the narrative. Knowing that a possible nuclear catastrophe did not eventuate does not stop readers willing the characters to stop it or from the tension generally to build. And while some of the action scenes are a little bit muddied this a very engaging thriller.
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I struggled a bit with this story. It was a bit to violent for me although I did find it interesting. The depiction of the characters was very good and made it all feel very real.
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Patrick Worrall makes a terrific entry into the spy fiction world with his debut novel, The Partisan.

The story is mainly set in the early 1960s, but there are also frequent flashbacks to the Second World War, particularly to the role played by partisans in the forests of Lithuania, and flash forwards to 2004, when one of the partisans, ‘Greta’, is relating the story of her time as a partisan to a member of the Lithuanian ministry responsible for memorials. Also central to the story, is the relationship between Yulia Forsheva, daughter of a powerful Soviet couple, and Michael Fitzgerald, son of the British Director of Naval Intelligence. The pair meet at a chess competition in London in 1961 and subsequently become pawns in a complex game of espionage and power politics.

The story is very complex, and some patience is needed in the early stages, but Worrall steadily and skilfully knits his various strands into a compelling whole that comes together in a series of stunning finales in Spain, London and Sweden. The second half of the book is particularly suspenseful, as the twin storylines in 1961 and 1944 reach their violent conclusions and Worrall offers some unexpected final twists.

The Partisan impresses with the breadth of its scope and its seemingly accurate depiction of the various historical events that it covers. There is also a great deal of poignancy and sadness in Worrall’s portrayal of the horrors of war and the brutality of the Soviet Union in the early 1960s. The characters are fulsome and credible, and very engaging.

At times there seemed to be too much background story, including flashbacks to the Spanish Civil War, but the need for this comes clearer in the final chapters. I also thought that the romance between Yulia and Michael was a little clumsy at first, but this is only a small quibble.

Overall, The Partisan is a very impressive debut that bodes well for Worrall future career as a spy novelist.
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Love historical fiction and this is a great example.

The setting is great and the story worthwhile. There is a lot of switching between timelines but it really helps build the story and characters.
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Greta was a resistance fighter in Lithuania and now she is hunting again, while Vassily who was the Soviet Union’s spymaster is also looking for people from the past.

Gripping novel that at first seems about two young people meeting and falling in love but neither of them are prepared for what will happen.

An insight into earlier events and how the need for revenge is strong and needs resolution. Read and enjoy.
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What a panoramic sweep of a story relating the life forming events of three people to become what they are starting from the impact of WWII on Latvia and Russia. The German occupation of Latvia has opposite effects on two different characters, a boy abused by his father betrays him to the Germans and gets rewarded and becomes a collaborator transferring to the Russian when the Germans are in retreat. The other character is a young girl escaping into the forest when bereft of family, battle harden as a partisan determined to bring to Justice those who massacred friends and family to ultimately become the boy’s nemesis as he develops into an all-powerful mega manic and a sadistic pervert freely supplied with selections of victims by his henchmen. The other strand is of the young wife of a Soviet intellectual who stays behind to rally troops into battle aided by a young major while her husband flees East. How all these strands come together is a complex story with minor roles by the next generation, a Russian Girl and an English boy who have an unwitting part to play. A most absorbing read.
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Two young prodigies from either side of the Iron Curtain, Yulia and Michael. meet at a chess tournament in London. They don't know it, but they are about to compete in the deadliest game ever played. Shadowing them is Greta, a ruthless resistance fighter who grew up the hard way in the forests of Lithuania, but who is now hunting down some of the most dangerous men in the world. Men who are also on the radar of Vassily, Perhaps the Soviet Unions greatest spymaster, A man of cunning and influence.

Set in the summer of 1961, around the time of the Cold War. The story revolves around the four main characters, Yulia, Michael, Greta and Vassily. The timeframes continually moving and the various characters makes this book a little confusing until you get into it. The plotline is complex, so it needs all your attention to keep you focused. It can be hard to read in places as there's some scenes of  torture and violence, It covers the years: 1940s. 1960's and 2004. This is a really good debut novel.

I would like to thank #NetGalley #RandomHOuseUK #TransworldPublishers for my ARC of ThePartisan in exchange for an honest review.
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The Partisan is the very assured debut thriller by Patrick Worrall. This book was recommended to me after I'd enjoyed Robert Goddard's latest book and it's very much in his style.

The action begins in wartime Lithuania with a trio of displaced young girls becoming a feared partisan team as they take to the woods to avoid the German invaders. One of them, Greta ,continues hunting Nazis for years after the end of the war, returning to Lithuania in 2004 to pay her respects to lost friends and tell her story to a journalist.

With Greta's story unfolding in the background most of the tale is set at the height of the Cold War British Intelligence suspecting that an attack by the Soviet Union on Western Europe looking very much on the cards. As tension builds Russian chess protege Yulia Forsheva and British student Michael Fitzgerald meet , fall in love and find themselves in the middle of intrigue,espionage and mixed up in a very high stakes metaphorical chess game between Soviet and British politicians and intelligence services.

This is a great story  that keeps the readers on their toes. Many of the characters  have ambiguous loyalties and there are plenty of shocks and surprises along the way.
My only criticism is that the story jumps backwards and forwards between timelines and locations it's quite often confusing as to what's going on and when,which does make it a struggle at times.

That aside I really enjoyed the book,great characters,a gripping story-line and just as good as that Robert Goddard book I mentioned earlier, very impressive from a debut author.
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‘... they were in the business of settling debts.’

Summer, 1961. At the height of the Cold War, two young people meet at a chess tournament in London. Yulia Forsheva, daughter of Sergei, a scientist and Anna, a powerful member of the Politburo, meets Michael, son of Sir Stephen Fitzgerald, British Director of Naval Intelligence. They fall in love and plan to meet at the chess championship to be held in East Germany. Michael and Yulia meet in Berlin, aided by Vassily a powerful Soviet spy whose role is to protect Yulia.

In 2004, ‘Greta’ is relating aspects of her life during World War II to Indrė Žukauskienė. Now elderly, Greta had been a resistance fighter. She, and two Jewish girls Riva and Vita, had hidden in the Lithuanian forests. Greta sought to avenge their deaths at the hands of German Nazis and has pursued and eliminated Nazis ever since. But Greta is also hunting an influential, elusive Russian she failed to kill during the war. Maxim Karpov, now holding a senior position in the Kremlin, was responsible for killing an entire village of Lithuanians whom he suspected of aiding the partisans.

In his current position, Karpov has plans for Europe. Vassily has plans to thwart him, while Greta plans to destroy him. Yulia’s parents will also be caught up in this plot, as will Michael’s father.

‘In the Soviet Union, if you get tired of reality, a new one will come along and replace it. Every new leader ushers in a glorious new past.’

The story shifts between the 1940s, the 1960s and 2004, between Lithuania, Germany, Russia, England, and Spain and involves multiple characters. While wanting to race ahead to see how the story finished, I had to slow down to understand and absorb its complexity.

A fantastic debut novel, and one of the best Cold War thrillers I have read in a long time.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Random House UK, Transworld Publishers for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes. 

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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I tried several times to read this book and each time the I became confused with the many characters and then confused again with the alternating time frames.
However, not to be beaten, I put aside one morning to concentrate on the book and found that once I had read more than 35% the storyline became clearer and the characters found their voices.
some clever espionage tricks mixed with chess terminology kept  me reading but to be honest I wanted a faster pace and fewer words.
Worth a try if you enjoy cold war antics and chess.
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Wonderful story stretching from WW11 to the mid 60’s with a ruthless partisan at the heart of it. With classic evil Russian agents,the British involved in discrete ways and the Lithuanian heroine on her savage revenge mission this story veer’s from year to year backwards and forwards but it all fits neatly together. It all builds to a glorious climax and is a thoroughly entertaining yarn.
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This is a terrific, well plotted debut novel with multiple layers, culminating in a thrilling climax. It’s mainly set in the 1960s during the Cold War but with flashbacks to WW2, particularly to the role played by partisans in the forests of Lithuania.

In 2004, one such partisan, Greta, a member of the formidable team known as the three sisters is relating the story of her time as a partisan to a member of the Lithuanian ministry responsible for memorials. Since the war she has become a skilled Nazi hunter, tracing and killing war criminals. Her biggest hunt however was in 1961 for a Russian called Maxim Karpov, now high up in the Kremlin and known as the Chief Administrator who was responsible for killing a whole village of Lithuanians, suspected of aiding the partisans. 

The story starts with the meeting of two young people. Yulia Forsheva, daughter of Sergei, a scientist and technologist and Anna, a powerful member of the Politburo first meets Michael, son of Sir Stephen Fitzgerald, British Director of Naval Intelligence at a chess competition in 1961. They fall in love and plan to meet again at the Chess Finals to be held in East Germany. There Michael meets Vassily, a clever and powerful Soviet spy, who is there to protect Yulia. However, he turns a blind eye so that Yulia can sneak out with Michael for an evening together. Thus, Michael has become an important pawn in a complex game of chess orchestrated by Vassily, designed to thwart Karpov’s plans for Europe. With the chess board populated with Karpov, Greta, Yulia’s parents, Michael’s father, a Cambridge academic and a cast of thugs and spies, the endgame will be played out in a stunning final showdown in Valencia.

I thought the way the multiple threads and timelines were handled and drawn together was impressively handled by a first time author. Although it does require a little patience and concentration to follow all the threads until they come together, it is well worth the effort. The main characters are fascinating and well depicted, particularly Vassily, Greta and the hideous Karpov. I would have liked to have got to know Michael and Julia a little better as well as their parents to have a better feel for everyone’s motives and driving forces, but there is so much in the novel already that it would have been difficult to fit in much more character development. Overall, it is an exciting historical thriller which will delight fans of Russian history and Cold War spycraft, particularly while Russia is once again flexing it’s expansionist muscles with its war in Ukraine.
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A cold war thriller that will appeal to readers interested in this historical period. However, I found it a difficult read, too many characters and much switching between time periods. Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for the arc.
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A very well written,detailed story that needed full attention or would/ could have become confusing,not a casual bedtime pick up read etc, a very good debut
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This is Patrick Worrall's incredible debut, it is an intricate and complex historical espionage novel that primarily focuses on the perilous era of the Cold War in the 1960s, but goes back and forth in time, and includes a glimpse of the future in 2004 in Lithuania with the elderly 'Greta' relating events from her life to Indre Zukauskiene, and what a life it has been. Greta, not her real name, evolves into a powerful and ruthless resistance fighter in Lithuania during WW2, hiding out in the forests with 2 Jewish girls, Riva and Vita, setting out to avenge their killings by German Nazis. In the post-war years, she has been relentless in her pursuit and elimination of Nazis who have escaped justice, although they are not her only targets, in particular she is hunting an influential but elusive Russian target she failed to kill during the war. The story is set in various locations through time, including Lithuania, Russia, Germany, England (Cambridge and London) and Spain.

There are numerous threads and characters that slowly begin to connect with each other, but they may prove to be a challenge for readers to keep up with, so attention to detail is essential to understanding the various twists and events that unfold. Young Michael Fitzgerald secures a place at King's College, Cambridge, a talented chess player, he falls in love with a true chessmaster, the Russian Yulia Forsheva, at a London tournament. Her powerful mother, Anna's position become markedly more precarious when it is assumed that Yulia's father, Sergei, has defected. The difficult Romeo and Juliet relationship is facilitated by Vassily, an adept spymaster caught up in the divisions, intrigue, and machinations taking place within the Politburo, and the deadly European ambitions of Maxim Karpov. The connecting parts of the narrative conclude with a nail biting finale set in Valencia, can the horrors of a European catastrophe be averted?

I found this to be a terrific book, epic in nature, but it is not without its flaws, the constant jumps in time, may test readers to the point they give up on the story. That is such a shame as the timelines and the backstories and history of the many characters could have been organised more coherently and smoothly within the narrative. However, despite this, I was still impressed with Patrick Worrall's debut and his skills in pulling together what appear to be disparate elements of his novel which tragically echo our contemporary realities with Putin and the war in Ukraine. Of the many and distinctive characters that inhabit the pages of this historical fiction, I particularly liked the Russian Vassily who had fought in the Spanish Civil War and had made an enemy of the chief administrator, the deplorable Karpov. This will appeal to fans of European and Russian historical fiction, especially WW2 and the Cold War. Many thanks to the publisher for an ARC.
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The Partisan is certainly a novel for our time after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. It's a complex story so I will leave the synopsis for others. Essentially it gives a lot of background information within the story about allegiances, loyalties, betrayals and animosities chiefly during and after WW2. I found it fascinating and hard hitting. It would have been a five star review from me but I am knocking a star off because I found it chronologically challenging with so many switches from one period to another. I am uncertain of what a Czechoslovakian UVF field radio system is other than a mistake which is repeated further along in the story. It should be either a Czechoslovakian VHF or UHF field radio system.
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a cracking tale that stretches from WW2 t0 the 1960's. 3 young Latvian girls livng in the dense forests having fled first from the Russians then   the Germans.
Twenty years on and an English schoolboy meets and is enchanted by a Russian chess champion one of whose KGB minders arranges for her to meet him away from prying eyes. The boys father is a shadowy figure high up in British Intelligence. The girls mother is a member of the Russian government.
Only one of the girls survives the war ,afterwards the survivor offers her services to Israeli Intelligence and proceeds to assassinate those on her list of collaborators those who gave up jews those who worked for the Germans and revelled in it those who spied for Russia anyone in fact who she felt had betrayed her country and her family and friends.
Meanwhile the two chess champions almost become victims of an abduction .a particularly sinister and depraved member of the government who is mixed up in a plot for Russia to launch a pre emptive strike on the west,has designs on our teenage chess champion and sees this as a way of both fulfilling his carnal desires but using her to exert pressure on her mother.
I have tried not to give away too many of the innumerable twists and turns as the author brings all the various strands neatly together and some characters get their just desserts in particularly satisfying ways.
The central character of the partisan was particularly well drawn and it was easy to see how her experiences had turned her into the person she grew up to be. 
A exciting novel with  interesting characters and plot . I enjoyed i a lot.
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Fans of Robert Goddard and Robert Harris should love this story about the Cold war. It is a complex and emotional read in places, but it's worth sticking with it. Set mostly in 1961 the story jumps around two other time periods (without signposts) and it was confusing at times. I noticed some of the other reviewers could not get past this and that is a shame. It was a well written, well paced and enjoyable read. Recommended. Many thanks to NetGalley UL and Random House UK, Transworld Publishers for the advanced reader copy.
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