Review: The Key to Rebecca, by Ken Follett

Only recently, I learned that the title of this book — and a key part of the story — is based on real events. There really was a German Nazi spy who helped Rommel’s armies using encrypted messages based on Daphne du Maurier’s novel, Rebecca. That’s why I decided to re-read the novel, having first read it when it first came out some forty years ago. I have to say that when I read it then, I enjoyed it very much and many scenes stay in my memory even today.

But following a fresh re-reading today, the novel hasn’t aged well. While the basic premise is an interesting one, the story is formulaic, the characters wooden and the climax absurd to say the least. (Without giving much away, let’s just say that following the incredible bungling of the book’s hero, the brave efforts of a young boy leads to the defeat of the legendary Afrika Korps.) The relationship between the four main characters (two men and two women) may have seemed somewhat bold back in 1979 (with scenes involving to bisexual sex, threesomes, casual promiscuity, prostitution, etc), but today it all seems a bit forced — and some of it quite silly. Not recommended.