A Whispered Name
Father Anselm, a bee-keeping monk of Larkwood Monastery in Suffolk, receives two visitors who wish to see a now deceased monk, Herbert Moore. It is a puzzling visit, which sets in train a convoluted research project for Anselm, delving into the obscure past and centring on the apparent execution for desertion of a young Irish soldier, Private Joseph Flanagan, in Belgium 1917. The story is split between the Great War and late 20th century efforts to uncover the murky truth of the events of the past.
It is a dense, complicated story that seems to be reluctant to yield its secrets to the present day. It reveals core human emotions and traits as cowardice, guilt, selfishness, bravery and love. In the almost unimaginably horrific mélange of terrors of World War One, a story of spiritual fulfilment and an acceptance of very human limitations emerges, ending with a feeling of redemption.
From the many fictional treatments of the Great War, this is one of the very best in providing some sort of understanding and appreciation of the unbearable conditions of the Western Front for so many millions of soldiers, so many of whom, of course, did not return to tell of their horrific experiences.