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My Father's House: AS SEEN ON BBC BETWEEN THE COVERS (Rome Escape Line Book 1)

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Would The Choir and the Monsignor be able to evacuate all those they hoped to get out of Italy successfully? Each chapter was read by one of the narrators listed above and we see the setting and atrocities through their eyes. I also enjoyed the dialogue in the book, wjhich often has an natural, snappy quality, and O'Connor has a great turn of phrase ('If I backed the tide it wouldn't come in, ‘if he was a banana he'd peel himself’).

I have come to see neutrality is the most extremist stance of all; without it, no tyranny can flourish. I’d never heard of ‘the Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican’ before and was curious as to how he hid and protected so many from the Nazis. Their cover is a choir and the choristers are Delia Kieran, wife to the senior Irish diplomat at the Vatican, Marianna de Vries, a Dutch, freelance journalist, Sir D’Arcy Osborne, the British ambassador, Enzo Angelucci, former new stand owner, Sam Derry, an escaped British prisoner of war, John May is the resourceful man servant to the ambassador, Contessa Giovanna Landini, a widow, and the “conductor” is Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty. What a read – what a story, this piece of historical fiction is based on real events using fictional characters created by amalgamating real players of this period of WWII Rome. I found this a strong work of historical fiction, strengthened by the fact that it was based on a true story, and is very much about compassion, love, faith, and resilience during the most extreme of circumstances.It is estimated through the use of safe houses and churches this indomitable group saved some six thousand five hundred people under the very eyes of the Gestapo.

I believe, despite all the books being written about this time, that we will never reach the end of all that needs to be told. Hauptmann was the Gestapo Officer who had appointed Hugh as the Vatican Envoy thinking that an Irishman would be unlikely to sympathize with English prisoners. The story is set in Nazi-occupied Rome during December 1943 and unfolds as a countdown towards 'a mission'.The Vatican City, at one fifth of a square mile the world’s smallest state, a neutral, independent country within Rome, acted as a safe haven for diplomats, refugees, and escaped Allied prisoners. It’s an incredibly dangerous but tightly-run clandestine operation, and O’Flaherty remains frustratingly out of Hauptmann's grasp. Despite the fact that this is the story of darkness that lurks therein, ultimately, it’s a story of hope. Running the escape line is the incredibly tough and organised Hugh, code name Golf, and his 'Choir', he understands the need for silence, given the Nazis extensive use of microphones and their network of informants. It has come to their notice that Christmas Eve may represent a huge opportunity to move the so many hidden within the many rooms of the Vatican City.

However, these sections sometimes feel like a cheat in that they are used to convey information that these individuals wouldn't have been privy to. This enables the reader to hear their individual voices, to gain a strong sense of their different personalities and varied backgrounds and all are well fleshed out.

Top-notch blend of action-thriller and introspective literary fiction, based on real people and events. Certainly would make a great movie, and it becomes natural to draw comparisons with Oscar Schindler. It details raw courage and the selfish acts of all those who worked with Hugh to raise funds and find accommodation for the growing number of escapees. I've enjoyed Joseph O'Connors work whenever I've read it over the years, starting all the way back with 'Cowboy and Indians’ and 'Desparadoes' back in the early nineties. Would the abstractions they planned be enough to keep SS Officer Hauptmann distracted long enough to accomplish The Rendimento?

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