Like Historical Fiction You’ll love this one

Like Historical Fiction? You’ll love this one!

Star Of The Sea by Joseph O'Connor

Audio version

My Father's House by Joseph O'ConnorThis is the first Joseph O’Connor book that I have read – I remember when The Star of the Sea came out a few years ago I was put off by the many pages and the bleak subject of the novel. However I loved the blurb for My Father’s House – the combination of the setting of Rome with the Vatican during wartime sold me on it and I was not disappointed. It was only when I was well into the story that I realised it is actually based on a true story, something that also appeals to me - so much so that when I finished it I requested a factual book based on the story of the main character- Monsigneur Hugh O’Flaherty called The Vatican Pimpernel by Brian Fleming.The Vatican Pimpernel by Brian Fleming

My Father’s House tells the story from the different perspectives of the main players. ‘The Choir’ is the code name for the group who mastermind the rescue and harbouring of many escaped prisoners of war in occupied Rome – it was dubbed The Escape Line. Evading the German forces headed up by SS Officer Paul Hauptmann was a daily occurrence and a big operation was planned to move the ever growing number of escaped POWs (codenamed ‘Books’) from their hideouts (referred to as ‘Shelves’) to locations outside Rome itself. As a book lover you can appreciate how much I love this analogy!! There really was a Choir and it was at rehearsals that the plans were cascaded to each member to be committed to memory.

Hauptmann’s obsession with the Choirmaster himself, Msgr Hugh O’Flaherty, nearly caused the plans to fail but what actually happened has become legendary over the years. None so much as in Msgr O’Flaherty’s adopted home town of Killarney where there is a statue of him to celebrate and honour the work he did in Rome to save over 6,500 escaped POWs and civilians during WW2

The appeal of the story is enhanced in the telling as the author moves between Choir members- a hotch potch of people from all walks of life, as well as interviews which were recorded later in 1963 when the BBC programme This is Your Life focussed on him and other members of the group who made the escapes possible. The aura of fear, bravery and sacrifice permeates the narrative of the book as we follow the choir members through hidden tunnels, skylights, church knaves and open paths, constantly evading capture and avoiding patrols. It is a tense and harrowing tale at times but the bravery and determination of those involved is worthy of being immortalised and celebrated by a celebrated author such as this.

I am pleased to note that this is being lauded as the first in a trilogy based on The Rome Escape Line so will look forward to the next in the series ‘The Ghosts of Rome’ which is expected in 2025 and have also just found out that it is longlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2024–so watch this space!

A person sitting and looking at a digital book on a tablet device

My Father’s House by Joseph O’Connor

The Star of the Sea by Joseph O’Connor

The Vatican Pimpernel by Brian Fleming


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