My Father’s House by Joseph O’Connor [8/10]

WWII-based historical novels are all the rage in the current market, especially at the “entertainment” end of the spectrum. Most feel of our times not of those times. Not so My Father’s House, a dramatization of the true story of an Irish priest in the protected Vatican City in 1943-1944 who runs an Escape Line shunting escaped Allied POWs to safety. The label “true story” often consigns novels to boredom, but poet/novelist Joseph O’Connor clearly is a master of resurrecting the true dramas of the past (in the same manner as Peter Morgan achieves with his epic six seasons of The Crown). Masterfully switching between a number of characters’ points of view (using, sometimes, the device of a post-war interview), including that of the monstrous Gestapo commandant of Rome, the author weaves a captivating and thrilling tale. Virtuosic, baroque stylistics turn every scene into a breathless drama, and the settings of the Vatican and Rome are gloriously portrayed. A joy to read, My Father’s House must be one of the most energetic and effective wartime adventure stories of the last decade.

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