HHhH by Laurent Binet

81%

29 Critic Reviews

It's a convincing argument: that the job of the writer is to get at the truth and not presume to invent it. All you need is a good story, well told -- like "HHhH."
-LA Times

Synopsis

HHhH: “Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich”, or “Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich”. The most dangerous man in Hitler’s cabinet, Reinhard Heydrich was known as the “Butcher of Prague.” He was feared by all and loathed by most. With his cold Aryan features and implacable cruelty, Heydrich seemed indestructible—until two men, a Slovak and a Czech recruited by the British secret service, killed him in broad daylight on a bustling street in Prague, and thus changed the course of History.

Who were these men, arguably two of the most discreet heroes of the twentieth century? In Laurent Binet’s captivating debut novel, we follow Jozef Gabćik and Jan Kubiš from their dramatic escape of Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia to England; from their recruitment to their harrowing parachute drop into a war zone, from their stealth attack on Heydrich’s car to their own brutal death in the basement of a Prague church.

A seemingly effortlessly blend of historical truth, personal memory, and Laurent Binet’s remarkable imagination, HHhH—an international bestseller and winner of the prestigious Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman—is a work at once thrilling and intellectually engrossing, a fast-paced novel of the Second World War that is also a profound meditation on the nature of writing and the debt we owe to history.

HHhH is one of The New York Times' Notable Books of 2012.

 

About Laurent Binet

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Laurent Binet was born in Paris, France, in 1972. He is the author of La Vie professionnelle de Laurent B., a memoir of his experience teaching in secondary schools in Paris. In March 2010, his debut novel, HHhH, won the Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman. Laurent Binet is a professor at the University of Paris III, where he lectures on French literature.
 
Published April 24, 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 336 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, Education & Reference, War. Fiction
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Critic reviews for HHhH
All: 29 | Positive: 24 | Negative: 5

Kirkus

Excellent
May 01 2012

Binet deserves great kudos for retrieving this fateful, half-forgotten episode, spotlighting Nazi infamy, celebrating its resisters, and delivering the whole with panache.

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Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by James Lasdun on May 16 2012

...he marshals and deploys his materials with exceptional dramatic skill.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
Feb 27 2012

A perfect fusion of action and the avante-garde that deserves a place as a great WWII novel.

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NY Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Alan Riding on Apr 27 2012

... the result is a gripping novel that brings us closer to history as it really happened.

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Toronto Star

Good
Reviewed by Michel Basilieres on Jun 02 2012

It’s something of a shame that he so often expresses this as disappointment and mistrust of his abilities, because HHhH is brilliant.

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Toronto Star

Excellent
Reviewed by Michel Basilieres on Jun 02 2012

...all these elements are handled with great skill, even though Binet strives to keep his writing as simple, direct and unaffected as possible...

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LA Times

Above average
Reviewed by Carolyn Kellogg on Jun 24 2012

It's a convincing argument: that the job of the writer is to get at the truth and not presume to invent it. All you need is a good story, well told -- like "HHhH."

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AV Club

Excellent
Reviewed by Phil Dyess-Nugent on Jun 11 2012

Laurent Binet’s award-winning debut novel, HHhH, is fascinating, compelling, and frustrating, for reasons too intertwined to be separated.

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The Telegraph

Excellent
Reviewed by David Annand on May 03 2012

And it is conventionally successful too, as both a gripping thriller and a moving testament to the heroes of the Czechoslovakian resistance.

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Suite 101

Excellent
Reviewed by Gregory Breen on Jun 10 2012

HHhH is a wonderful document to an important and heroic act and a beautiful, engaging insight into the writer’s process.

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The Independent

Excellent
Reviewed by Leyla Sanai on May 27 2012

Despite his fussing about the nature of historical fiction, this is mesmeric stuff; history brought to chilling, potent life.

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Washington Independent Review of Books

Excellent
Reviewed by Rhoda Trooboff

A gripping, panoramic historical thriller, HHhH is also a critique of the concept of historical truth and a meditation on the novel as a literary form.

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The Sydney Morning Herald

Excellent
Reviewed by James Ley on Apr 28 2012

It has its flaws, its occasional weaknesses of tone and style, but Binet handles his inherently dramatic subject with intelligence, originality and poise.

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The New Yorker

Below average
Reviewed by James Wood on May 21 2012

“HHhH” is certainly more interesting than most of its conventional rivals, but it also seems shallower than its more distinguished rivals.

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Time Magazine

Excellent
Reviewed by Lev Grossman on Apr 25 2012

...the book’s quirky, clever, stunt-yness is typical of what tempered with uneasiness my enjoyment of this otherwise smart and accomplished book

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Chicago Tribune

Excellent
Reviewed by Carolyn Kellogg on Jun 24 2012

Laurent Binet tackles the story of a Nazi and the two Czechoslovakian war heroes who set out to assassinate him and writes a marvelous, charming, engaging novel.

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Literary Review

Below average
Reviewed by Frederic Raphael

What makes the novel unendurable, aside from the banal narrative devices, is - certainly in translation - the thesaurus of platitudes...

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Newcity Lit

Excellent
Reviewed by Kelly Roark on May 16 2012

...a higher standard for any historical fiction or nonfiction than you’ll ever encounter again.

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Vol. 1 Brooklyn

Excellent
Reviewed by Joe Winkler on May 01 2012

I really don’t know how to praise this book further than to say that it changed my conception of the possibilities of literature.

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Straight.com

Below average
Reviewed by Michael Hingston on Jun 13 2012

Binet sets up flimsy, outdated binaries between truth and fiction, and then spends the rest of the book nervously biting his fingernails and generally giving capital-H History way too much credit.

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The Australian

Excellent
Reviewed by Sam Twyford-Moore on Jun 16 2012

Here he proves himself a great writer of suspense, effectively ratcheting up the tension ...

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Book Oxygen

Excellent
Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

...this book... joins the ranks of significant, original literary responses to a period in history which continues to defy belief and challenge the power of words to express.

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Reader Dad

Good
Reviewed by Matt Craig on Apr 24 2012

HHhH is an extraordinary piece of work, a book that sets out to be a historical document and ends up as something completely other.

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Tony's Book World

Good
May 20 2012

Some might think these authorial intrusions would distract from the story, but for me they added a certain veracity and charm to the telling.

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Dog Ear Discs

Good
Reviewed by Harvill Secker on May 02 2012

HHhH is moving, terrifying and gripping in equal measure, it’s a must for fans of the “genre” even if the story is told in a rather staccato fashion.

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Just William's Luck

Below average
May 01 2012

This doesn't mean that the book is without successes, only that they were limited for me.

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Killer Nashville

Good
Reviewed by Clay Stafford on Jun 13 2012

A seemingly effortlessly blend of historical truth, personal memory, and Laurent Binet’s remarkable imagination...

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Fanzine

Below average
Reviewed by Michael McCanne on Jun 21 2012

The true dilemma of HHhH doesn’t seem to be the accuracy of historical fact but rather the aestheticization of heroic and tragic acts, if we can use these terms.

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Words Without Borders

Good
Reviewed by Emma Garman

HHhH is a witty and thought-provoking exploration of how stories are constructed, historically, literarily, and biographically.

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Reader Rating for HHhH
73%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 268 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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Terri McGinty 5 Sep 2013

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