Monday, 22 September 2008
IN the Great War, a man is found guilty of desertion and sentenced to death.
Two generations later, a woman comes to a monastery seeking the truth about what happened.
But the truth has died with the monk who left a scatter of memorials, including the army tags of another soldier.
The monastery sends another aged monk, a former lawyer, to hunt out the truth of what happened.
The result is a story that starts out with great oomph but swiftly gets entangled in itself.
William Brodrick is an English writer living in Paris, a former monk, and he writes stunningly about monastic life - the vocation that strikes a monk with such homesickness that he's drawn home to the abbey.
He's on less sure ground writing about the fatal act of heroism at the centre of his story - islander Seosaimh Ó Flanagáin's throw of the dice to save a lost man.
But this is a writer to watch. He skirts the temptation of writing about the politics of World War I, and goes for the mud and the blood and the beer.
The story of Joe Flanagan and Owen Doyle - and Herbert Moore, who must try a court-martial, and who ends his days in monkish silence - is almost good, and has moments of greatness.