My Father’s House (The Rome Escape Line Trilogy, 1)

Written by Joseph O’Connor
Review by Janice Ottersberg

A black Daimler races through the war-torn streets of Rome for a hospital on a dark December night—sleet and rain, car swerving, breaks squealing. So begins this breathtaking story of subterfuge and resistance against Rome’s Nazi occupation in 1943.

Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty is smuggling escaped Allied prisoners of war and refugees through neutral Vatican City onto freedom. He has gathered a diverse group of seven operatives to assist him. These are his choir members, he is conductor, and rehearsals mask their secretive meetings. A special mission, the Rendimento, is planned on Christmas Eve. The injured passenger in the Daimler is not able to fulfill his critical role for the Rendimento, so the Monsignor must; he knows the streets and alleyways of Rome like no other. Hugh is also the nemesis of Obersturmbannführer Paul Hauptmann, Gestapo chief of Rome, which places his life in greater danger. With intense pressure from Himmler, Hauptmann must find the person assisting the escapees, and he is sure it is Hugh.

Moving between the chapters that countdown the hours and minutes until the Rendimento —where we follow the planning and learn the purpose of the mission—and the chapters of post-war interviews and memoirs of the “choir” members, we get a full picture of Hugh and his remarkable life. Hugh O’Flaherty is based on a true-life hero responsible for saving countless lives. The Vatican’s role during Nazi occupation gives another view of WWII, proving there are numerous facets to this war. The reader is side-by-side with Hugh from the beginning to the conclusion of the Rendimento—timed to the minute, unforeseen diversions, heart-stopping moments, danger at every turn. This is not only a novel of peril and secrecy, but a thoughtful portrait of many brave people who stepped up to save their fellow man.