Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Review: Bad Faith: A Story of Family and Fatherland. Carmen Callil

Bad Faith: A Story of Family and Fatherland. Carmen Callil
Bad Faith: A Story of Family and Fatherland. Carmen Callil by Carmen Callil

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

An interesting read. In a "may you live in interesting times" kind of way.

Last year we went to see the movie "La Rafle", about the Vel d'Hiv' "round up" of French Jews during the Second World War. I bought this book a couple of years ago (because of the title, and because it's about the German occupation of France during WWII, and WWII is one of those things I always want to be learning more about), but only picked it up this year. I will also admit that it got more sustained attention from me because it is by a female author who identifies as Australian.

Things I learned from this book:
- a lot more about the legalities and practicalities of Vichy France (and the fact that the town of Vichy is still trying - and failing - to live down the fact that its name is forever associated with the technically ongoing identity of the French nation during WWII)
- between my previous read ("Fatal Silence"), this one, and the one I just borrowed from the library today ("Hunting Evil") I am in a really anti-Roman Catholic-Curia-during-WWII stage of existence
- not surprisingly, France under German occupation is a little more complex than 'Allo 'Allo. I certainly hadn't previously realised that the Germans essentially re-took control of the whole of France in 1942 prior to reading this book.
- theodicy (the problem of evil) forms a lot of my thought processes at the moment. Not just because of my reading (recent sermons are also an influence)
- the ugliness of the "cultural cringe" of Australians who left here in the 60s and have never really returned is not limited to celebrities such as Germaine Greer, Robert Hughes, and Clive James.
- I *really* don't like generalisations about Tasmanians, even though I don't think I'd like the Jones family one little bit.

Downsides to the book:
- Callil generalises wildly about Australia. I object to this from someone who hasn't lived here since 1960.
- In a lot of ways its not enough about Anne. It's not even all that much about Anne's relationship with her father, or in fact about *family* at all. Which makes the title of the book rather misleading. I actually wish that the book had NOT been given the framing mechanism of Anne Darquier, because as interesting as it occasionally was, it meant that I wanted to know more of Anne's life, more of Anne's thoughts, than I had any chance to be given. I wish Callil had admitted from the beginning that this was a book almost entirely about Louis Darquier with only tangential references to his wife and daughter. If that had been the case, she might not have been so disparaging of Australia in general, into the bargain.

I really am trying not to be too mean about this book. After all, I learnt a lot from it, and I did finish it. I'm also trying not to react just to the clangers about Australia, but the problem was, they were in the first few chapters, and rang so false that they coloured my entire impression of the book.

Ultimately, I'm glad I only paid $5 for this book. It will probably stay in my collection, but more because it's about WWII than because I have any real intention of re-reading it in the future.

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  1. A thoughtful review, thank you for sharing it for the AWW challenge

    Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out