-by William Brodrick
400 Pages (2004)
My Rating: 4.5 / 5
brilliant debut demonstrates storytelling at its best
The 6th Lamentation — Brodrick’s dazzling debut on the events leading up to, and following, the Nazi’s occupation of France during World War II, and the impact on those who lived through it — is a novel of immense ethical intricacy, startling enlightenments and turnarounds. An effectual combination of fact and fiction, the story melds the past and present, spanning three generations…concluding in place where modern day retribution and past atrocities converge.
When Father Anselm, a barrister turned monk, is called on by a suspected war criminal, Eduard Schwermann, to provide asylum, Larkwood Priory (at Papal request), risks public scandal and harbours the former Nazi throughout his ensuing trial. When Anselm discovers that the Church earlier granted Schwermann and a French associate sanctuary after the war, providing them safe passage from France to England and new assumed identities, he launches a private investigation to find out why. Meanwhile, French expatriate Agnes Aubret, struggling with a debilitating terminal illness, discloses to her granddaughter Lucy her past involvement in a secret assemblage in the French Resistance, called The Round Table – a group that intended to conceal Jewish children from the murderous Nazi regime. The group was ultimately exposed by an infamous SS officer: Edward Schwermann. As Anselm peers into Schwermann iniquitous dealings and Lucy explores her grandmother's painful past, they discover the two seemingly unconnected histories are entwined, and are both connected to a French collaborator by the name of Victor Brionne.
Through his meticulous plot formation and ethically multifarious depiction of primary and secondary characters, Brodrick proves a leader in contemporaneous historical regeneration, in this acutely suspenseful drama/thriller. While avoiding being overly detailed on the horrendous atrocities of the Holocaust, he maintains a balanced pace throughout the novel, and often takes a step back from the bigger picture, focusing on poignant details that are often missed in novels of this genre.
Not unlike Shakespeare's tragic protagonists, whom are capable of both good and evil, Brodrick’s complex characters are anything but static, as they explore the possibilities of complex human nature — and how, ultimately, a single good work can often be used to justify countless crimes against humanity.
While disparaged by some for being too loquacious, The 6th Lamentation is not a book to be hurriedly perused. Brodrick, unlike many of today’s contemporary authors, makes a substantial ‘meal’ of the English language, which deserves to be savored and relished. Its eloquent literary verbosity and prose is effectively counterbalance by the story’s harrowing plot and white-knuckle twists and turns of plot, which will assuredly keep the reader on tenterhooks until it’s final pages.
The author’s own intriguing life experience as a practicing lawyer, and former monk, in addition to excerpts of his family history, add a rich density that elevates this story to more than just another good novel on the bookshelf. The 6th Lamentation is highly recommended for those who yearn for a historical drama and mystery, with a well-written literary aptitude.
Buy The 6th Lamentation at Amazon.com.
- reviewed for Curled Up With A Good Book