The Shirt of Nessan

Patricia Craig

  • The Free Frenchman by Piers Paul Read
    Secker, 570 pp, £10.95, September 1986, ISBN 0 436 40966 6
  • Dizzy’s Woman by George MacBeth
    Cape, 171 pp, £9.95, August 1986, ISBN 0 224 02801 4
  • On Foreign Ground by Eduardo Quiroga
    Deutsch, 92 pp, £7.95, April 1986, ISBN 0 233 97894 1
  • A New Shirt by Desmond Hogan
    Hamish Hamilton, 215 pp, £9.95, September 1986, ISBN 0 241 11928 6

Piers Paul Read’s Free Frenchman is Bertrand de Roujay, whose most significant act is to repudiate Pétain and his expedient administration at Vichy, and take himself to London, clandestinely, where he throws in his lot with the more honourable and recalcitrant de Gaulle. The year in which these events take place is 1940, and we’re nearly half-way through the novel when this climactic moment arrives. What we have, at one level, is a family saga, and this necessitates a chronological approach to Bertrand’s experiences: indeed, the story begins in 1890, some years before his birth, when his mother and the mother of his future wife Madeleine Bonnet are a couple of convent school girls.

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