Friday, 12 February 2016

The Absolution of Otto Finkel by John R Mackay

Reviewer: Gillian Hamer, author of The Charter, Closure, Complicit, Crimson Shore & False Lights (

What we thought: A new name in historical fiction for me, and not my usual first choice of genre, but something about the title and the book blurb took my attention when this book was submitted to Bookmuse for review. And I have to say I’m very glad I decided to read the novel.

The Absolution of Otto Finkel is a page-turner. Opening during a family holiday in St Malo between the first and second world wars, we are introduced to English brothers, Jack and Toby Graham, who become friends with an assortment of children from across Europe also staying at the same hotel. When the boys are involved in a tragic accident, they are all removed from the scene, destined to never see or speak to each other again.

But …. But … Fate plays a hand.

We follow throughout the book the differing adult stories of each of the boys involved in the original accident, and how their paths cross and re-cross through the second world war journey they each take. Each story holds its own surprises, emotions, tragedies and keeps the reader turning the page, knowing there has be a satisfactory conclusion, that human compassion and strength must win in the end. And without spoiling the reader for anyone, I was not disappointed by the way the story ended. Although at times, the jumps back and forth between years did catch me by surprise, the story was very well plotted and each character drove their own story.

This was also an informative read, with some scenes loosely based around true-life events, presenting a different side to some of the cliched WWII stories I’ve read in the past. The author carried each story with a competence, and his language and characterisation skills should be particularly pointed out for merit. If I had any negative it might be that the length and pacing was a little slow at times, and with a good edit, some areas of the writing could have flowed more. But in general, I very much enjoyed the style and passion in the author’s writing.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in wartime novels.  

You’ll enjoy this if you like: Jeffrey Archer, Amanda Hodgkinson, Sarah Waters.

Avoid if you don’t like: WWII, Nazis, human cruelty and human redemption.

Ideal accompaniments: Rations of bread, cheese, olives and a fruity Shiraz.

Genre: Historical Fiction.

Available from Amazon

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