Reviewed: “The 6th Lamentation” by William Brodick

I’ll start this review the way I started the review I wrote on Goodreads…

I will read this book over and over and over again. I know this already.

Everyone has a “type” of book that they notice before they notice all others. This “type” will lead to book purchases that will be both regretted and rejoiced over, along with everything in between. You all know what I mean, don’t you? You buy a book that catches your eye because it’s your “type” and you read fifty pages and wonder what in the world you could have been thinking while you debate with yourself about even finishing it. Then there are the times that what you buy helps pass time and keeps you interested, but nothing more or nothing less. Finally are the most perfect, most rare moments when you find yourself on page twenty-five of a book you bought on impulse because it’s your “type” and you’re already planning when to re-read the book.

That third example? That’s how I feel about William Brodick’s The 6th Lamentation.

Father Anselm and Lucy Embleton are the primary voices of the story set during the mid-1990s but really taking place during the height of the German Occupation of France during World War II. That’s because the story is Agnes Aubret-Embleton’s, only she can’t speak now, so she speaks through her granddaughter, Lucy, and the binding thread that is Father Anselm.

In Paris during the war, Agnes became part of an organization called The Round Table that worked to smuggle Jewish children out of the city through a monastery in the country and to safety in Switzerland. Her best friends, and her lover, were part of the group. Someone turned the group in to the Nazis. Agnes survived Ravensbruck and Auschwitz only to have the German officer, Eduard Schwermann, who conducted the raid appear in London in 1995 to stand trial for what he did to her group.

Schwermann takes refuge first in Father Anselm’s monastery, involving the unwilling monk in the web of intrigue that spirals out from something that seemed almost painfully simple. It’s Father Anselm who brings together the French Resistance, French collaborators to the Nazis, descendants of the major players, and even how his own Catholic Church may have played a role in the tragedy.

The 6th Lamentation is not an easy, light read. It draws you in from page one and keeps you there until the very last sentence. It makes you think and it makes you question things that had seemed so simple … like the idea of a collaborator.

At one point in the fictional story, the most philosophical point, one character brings up Paul Touvier, the first Frenchman convicted of crimes against humanity. His crimes were the execution of seven Jews at Rillieus-la-Pape in 1944 in response to the Paris Resistance’s assassination of a Vichy minister. The execution of any human is a crime against humanity but Touvier, when he finally came to trial in 1994, argued that he’d had to execute those seven because he’d been ordered to execute 100 and then bargained the Nazis, and his boss Klaus Barbie, down to thirty.

It isn’t an excuse and it doesn’t make him innocent of those seven murders but, as a character in the story put it, he couldn’t have even thought of saving twenty-three, or even ninety-three, Jews if he wasn’t collaborating with the Nazis to begin with.

The argument is flimsy at best, but definitely thought-provoking.

After all, no one says Touvier collaborated in order to save lives. It was just chance that he had that argument to make at all.

That’s just one example of why and how The 6th Lamentation isn’t a light read. But light reads leave something to be desired with me. I want books to make me think and I want books that I want to talk to people about. If I don’t spend time thinking about what I read, or doing things like researching Paul Touvier because he was mentioned, the books falls into that second category I mentioned at the start of this.

If you like fictional stories based in history, stories of intrigue and drama, stories of love and hope and healing … then this is the book for you.

I can say with absolute certainty that…

I will read this book over and over and over again. I know this already.

After all, never once while I was reading was I able to predict or guess what the outcome of the story would be. I tried, hard. But I couldn’t. And the ending is absolutely beautiful at the same time as it heart-breaking.

(Source on Paul Touvier information)

3 thoughts on “Reviewed: “The 6th Lamentation” by William Brodick”

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