The 6th Lamentation

Written by William Brodrick
Review by Nicole Leclerc

Strictly speaking, this is not an historical novel since most of the action takes place in the mid-1990s. However, the events of the past at its core weigh so heavily on the characters and their lives that history becomes a character in itself.

The 6th Lamentation refers to the Holocaust. The trigger of this complex story is the denunciation of an ex-SS whose wartime duties included supervising the deportation of Jews from France to the death camps and breaking up the Round Table, an underground railway. Having been helped to flee to England with his accomplice, a French police officer named Brionne, Schwermann seeks sanctuary in a priory, involving the Church in the proceedings. The story is structured along two poles: Father Anselm, witness for the present, mandated by Rome to locate Brionne; and Agnes, witness for the past, and her written account of the 1940s.

The theme is involving and alluring. However, we remain spectators, never feeling involved due to the rather precious and verbose writing style, often choppy and too cerebral for such an emotionally charged story. The narrative is overly complicated, without a solid center, but with an overabundance of characters and complex family links. Despite these flaws, it remains a book more than worthy of the detour. The characters are multi-layered and compelling, the storyline is gripping, the facts have a ring of truth to them, and more importantly, the book will remain with you after the reading is completed.