Monsieur le Commandant.

Author:Cullison, Margaret
Position:Book review

Roman Slocombe (author); MONSIEUR LE COMMANDANT; Gallic Books (Fiction: Historical) 14.95 ISBN: 9781908313508

Byline: Margaret Cullison

The author reveals the deepest levels of morally backwards Paul-Jean's depravity in uncompromising detail.

This excellent historical novel by Romain Slocombe chronicles the deplorable behavior of a privileged French author during the German occupation of World War II. Extensive research into this tumultuous period of the author's homeland informs Monsieur le Commandant: A Wartime Confession. Written originally in French and nominated for the Prix Goncourt, a translation by Jesse Browner brings the story of Paul-Jean Husson to English readers.

Convinced that the liberal French government has undermined the moral values of his country, World War I hero Paul-Jean embraces the false promises of Adolph Hitler and pledges support for MarA[c]chal PA[c]tain's puppet French government. Foolishly smitten with Ilse, his son Olivier's personable wife, Paul-Jean devotes himself to protecting her. Even after a private detective confirms his suspicions about Ilse's hidden German heritage, he continues to shield and covet her. Meanwhile, the French Gestapo increases its efforts to capture and punish French resistance fighters and undeclared Jews.

Written in epistolary form, Paul-Jean addresses a long letter to the German officer, or commandant, who controls the rural area of Normandy where he lives. Slocombe divides the letter into twenty-five chapters, ending with explanatory documents and notes. Told entirely from Paul-Jean's perspective, with minimal dialogue, the narrative expertly enlivens the diverse characters and dramatic scenes they inhabit.


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