Henry Faber, Nazi Germany’s most proficient and trusted spy, has vital information– the troops, tanks and planes massed in East Anglia ready to invade Calais, are fake, erected to distract the Fuhrer from the real invasion of Normandy. If he can just make his rendezvous with a U-boat near Aberdeen he, and his precious photos, will change the outcome of the war.
Several months ago I read something about the movie (I think that it was Donald Sutherland’s best performance); I’d seen it many years ago and was keen to watch it again. Unable to find the film (though I’ve since discovered copies at uni), I decided the book it was based on might be even better.
The plot moves briskly and incorporates a number of characters in addition to Die Nadel (Faber’s code name) – the Nazi officials waiting to hear news, the British intelligence officers trying to track this most elusive of threats, and Lucy, a beautiful woman trapped in a loveless marriage to a man crippled the night before his first mission as a bomber. Follett does a great job of ratcheting up the tension, and even generates a little confusion about who to hope will win. But the final section, where it all hinges on Lucy, is where the heart of the novel lies.
I was a little disappointed in The Eye of the Needle, through no fault of the book. For some reason I’d managed to conflate the book/film with another WW2 film where a spy wakes up with amnesia in a village after the war – or is it a plot to extract information? On a couple of occasions Die Nadel loses consciousness and I thought… but no. if anyone knows the film I thought this was I’d be delighted to hear from you. And if not, The Eye of the Needle is an enjoyable and fast-paced example of the genre that gives due recognition to the manifold influences of the outcome of the war, and how eaily it coupld have been very different. – Alex