My Father’s House by Joseph O’Connor

Today Mandie is sharing her thoughts on My Father’s House, the brand new WWII set novel from Joseph O’Connor. Thanks to Graeme Williams and to publisher Vintage for the advance copy for review. Here’s what it’s all about:

Source: Advance Reader Copy
Release Date: 26 January 2023
Publisher: Vintage

About the Book

When the Nazis take Rome, thousands go into hiding.

One priest will risk everything to save them.

September 1943: German forces occupy Rome. SS officer Paul Hauptmann rules with terror. The war’s outcome is far from certain.

An Irish priest, Hugh O’Flaherty, dedicates himself to helping those escaping from the Nazis. His home is Vatican City, the world’s smallest state, a neutral, independent country within Rome where the occupiers hold no sway. Here Hugh brings together an unlikely band of friends to hide the vulnerable under the noses of the enemy.
But Hauptmann’s net begins closing in on the Escape Line and the need for a terrifyingly audacious mission grows critical. By Christmastime, it’s too late to turn back.

Based on an extraordinary true story, My Father’s House is a powerful literary thriller from a master of historical fiction. Joseph O’Connor has created an unforgettable novel of love, faith and sacrifice, and what it means to be truly human in the most extreme circumstances.

Mandie’s Thoughts

Set in Rome and the Vatican City in 1943 and based on the true story of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty who risked everything to save both Jews and escaped prisoners under the nose of Nazi soldiers who ruled the area during the war.

After visiting a concentration camp and seeing the conditions there, Monsignor O’Flaherty made it his mission to help make their lives as bearable as he can. When his visits are stopped he devises a plan along with a close nit group of friends to smuggle as many escapees out of Rome as he can using the guise of a choir to enable secret meetings to formulate and execute it. Gestapo boss Obersturmbannführer Paul Hauptmann who although struggles to prove anything is convinced that the Monsignor is up to something and is determined to find out exactly what it is. 

The book is told via a split timeline, covering both events at the time and also later when members of the choir are interviewed by the BBC in the 1960’s. The multiple voices, each giving their own perspective of that time show the lengths that they went to in order to help those in need and the danger they actually put themselves under. Monsignor O’Flaherty was not only putting himself in the path of the Gestapo but also every citizen that resided in the Vatican City, which at the time was considered neutral even thought they lived under constant threat that they could be invaded at any time, a fact that those high up in the Vatican were always quick to stress when it looked like he was stepping out of line publicly. This is a time where the slightest slip up will get you killed and you never know who you can trust but somehow this unlikely group managed to do good whilst there was so much evil going on around them. 

I love books that are based on true stories as although there will always be an element of fiction to help the story along and cover things that may not be known it ultimately satisfies the history geek in me giving me things I can research and read up on once I finish. It also gives me more insight into a past that I don’t fully know about. Whilst this is a book set during WWII it is more about the people who lived through that period in time rather than the war itself which I always find far more fascinating and compelling. As this is book 1 in the Rome Escape Line Trilogy I will definitely be looking out for the next in the series.

About the Author

oseph O’Connor was born in Dublin. His books include Cowboys and IndiansInishowenStar of the Sea (American Library Association Award, Irish Post Award for Fiction, France’s Prix Millepages, Italy’s Premio Acerbi, Prix Madeleine Zepter for European novel of the year), Redemption Falls, Ghost Light (Dublin One City One Book Novel 2011) and Shadowplay (Irish Book Awards Novel of the Year, Costa Novel of the Year shortlist). His fiction has been translated into forty languages. He received the 2012 Irish PEN Award for Outstanding Contribution to Literature and in 2014 he was appointed Frank McCourt Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Limerick.

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