This superb book engages with all the complexities and ambiguities of loyalty, nationality, love and duty as they are put under threat by betrayal, by errors of judgement, or just by friendship in the historical wound that was occupied France. Etienne de Balafre, half French, half English and raised in South Africa, returns to post-war France to unravel the tangled history of his own father Lucien - was he a patriot who may have served his country as best he could in difficult times, or a treacherous collaborator in the Vichy government? This subtle and moving novel, rife with the anguish of hindsight and the irony of circumstance, explores the ties between fathers and sons and the pains of love and duty in a period in European history that is still characterised by wilful denial and hatred.
Allan Massie was born on 19 October 1938 in Singapore, and was educated at Trinity College, Glenalmond and Trinity College, Cambridge. He began his career as a teacher (1960-71) at Drumtochty Castle School, and also taught English as a second language in Rome (1972-5). He was Creative Writing Fellow at Edinburgh University (1982-4) and at Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities (1985-6). He was a member of the Scottish Arts Council (1989-91), a Trustee of the National Museums of Scotland (1995-8), and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Allan Massie was a columnist for the Glasgow Herald (1985-8) and the Sunday Times Scotland (1987-91), and has been fiction reviewer for The Scotsman since 1976. He has been a columnist for the Daily Telegraph since 1991, The Daily Mail since 1994, and the Sunday Times Scotland since 1996. A former editor of the New Edinburgh Review, he also contributes to the Sunday Telegraph and The Spectator.