'Now is the time for the burning of the leaves.' -- Laurence Binyon
What does a man do when the world has turned against him? Seek sanctuary is the advice of Father Anselm. The world though is not that simple, not when your name is Eduard Schwermann, a wanted Nazi war criminal.
We cannot escape the past, not when that past is Occupied France and it casts its long shadow over the future.
The past is seen through the eyes of the future. The past is told by Agnes Embleton, half French, who grew up in Occupied France and saw herself and her friends betrayed. Now in her seventies and dying of motor neuron disease she sets down the past in a series of notebooks for her granddaughter Lucy. The past is uncovered by Father Anselm, a monk at the priory where Eduard Schwermann has sought and been granted sanctuary.
Eduard Schwermann fled France at the end of the war with a French collaborator believed to be responsible for the betrayal of Agnes Embleton and her friends, all members of the Round Table who helped smuggle Jewish children to safety. Schwermann was found as he tried to escape. Why was he released? Why did his interrogator not record his fake identity? What was the part the Church played? Why did the Church facilitate his escape and provide him with false papers?
A well written and moving tale of Occupied France and the long shadow it cast over the future. At times too painful to read. A very powerful novel.
In The Devil and Miss Prym, Paulo Coelho writes of good doing evil of evil doing good. It is the choices we make that determines which path we follow, that of good or evil.
Occupied France was a time of collaboration, of mass round up and deportation of Jews to the death camps at Auschwitz. Who are we to sit in judgment?
The knock on the door, the people dragged away. More than sixty years on not a lot has changed. The only difference is that now it is the Jews wearing the jackboots, the place Palestine not France. Those Jews who survived the Holocaust say they cannot tell the difference.
William Brodrick uses 'The Burning of the Leaves' by Laurence Binyon to great effect in The Sixth Lamentation. Binyon is among the sixteen Great War poets commemorated on a slate stone in Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey in London. The inscription on the stone was written by a fellow Great War poet, Wilfred Owen. It reads: "My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity." This inscription could equally apply to The Sixth Lamentation and his later novel A Whispered Name.
Father Anselm is a barrister tuned monk. Author of The Sixth Lamentation William Brodrick is a monk turned barrister.
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