Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Secret Purposes by David Baddiel

Author: David Baddiel
ISBN # 0349117462

Publisher: Abacus

First published: 2004

408 pages

Rating: 8/10

The Blurb:
The Secret Purposes, David Baddiel's third novel, takes us into a little-known and still somewhat submerged area of British history: the internment of German Jewish refugees on the Isle of Man during the Second World War. Isaac Fabian, on the run with his young family from Nazism in East Prussia, comes to Britain assuming he has found asylum, but instead finds himself drowning in the morass of ignorance, half-truth, prejudice, and suspicion that makes up government attitudes to German Jews in 1940. One woman, June Murray, a translator from the Ministry of Information, stands out - and when she comes to the island on a personal mission to uncover solid evidence of Nazi atrocities, her meeting with Isaac will have far-reaching consequences for both of them. A haunting and beautifully written tale of love, displacement and survival, The Secret Purposes profoundly questions the way that truth - both personal and political - emerges from the tangle of history.

The Review:
David Baddiel has long been a fixture on the hot-list of British comedic talent and his previous two novels, Time for Bed and Whatever Love Means, although not played for obvious laughs, showed evidence of his comedy background throughout his portrayal of modern relationships. However, with The Secret Purposes, Baddiel shows maturity and a deeper understanding of people under pressure, making this novel a groundbreaking achievement for him as a talented writer.

This heartrending portrayal of families split apart during World War II due to the interment of Jews on the Isle of Man is both passionate and compassionate, uncovering the extent to which the persecution of an entire race was perpetrated, not only by the Nazis, but by the nation to whom many of them turned for help – Britain. It is intelligently written and never patronises the reader, immersing one completely in the lives of those interred, those left behind and those on the outside looking in.

There are some beautifully described thoughts on the very nature of religion and politics, giving the prose a deeper, philosophical meaning that is then debated within the reader’s own mind; challenging beliefs and practices, making this much more than simply a pleasurable read. It is well researched and although the subject is traditionally very difficult to tackle, Baddiel shows a flair for a lighter touch whenever it is needed, so that the plot is never maudlin or contrived.

The Secret Purposes is an immensely satisfying novel and if Baddiel continues in this vein, he will surely be accused of literature.


Blogger Marg said...

This sounds really, really interesting. I'm going to keep an eye out for it.

11:51 pm  
Blogger The Book Fiend said...

I hope you do - it's one of the best books I've read this year & that's saying something!

11:55 pm  

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