By: James William Brown
Published Year: 2017
Publisher: Berley Books
I received this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way shape or form influenced my opinion.
Amazon Barnes & Noble
Summary (Provided by Goodreads): A poignant and evocative novel of one Greek woman's story of her own and her nation's epic struggle in the aftermath of World War II.
Aliki is one of the last of her kind, a lamenter who mourns and celebrates the passing of life. She is part of an evolving Greece, one moving steadily away from its rural traditions. To capture the fading folk art of lamenting, an American researcher asks Aliki to record her laments, but in response, Aliki sings her own story...
It begins in a village in northeast Greece, where Aliki witnesses the occupying Nazi soldiers execute her father for stealing squash. Taken in by her friend Takis's mother, Aliki is joined by a Jewish refugee and her son, Stelios. When the village is torched and its people massacred, Aliki, Takis and Stelios are able to escape just as the war is ending.
Fleeing across the chaotic landscape of a post-war Greece, the three become a makeshift family. They are bound by friendship and grief, but torn apart by betrayal, madness and heartbreak.
Through Aliki's powerful voice, an unforgettable one that blends light and dark with wry humor, My Last Lament delivers a fitting eulogy to a way of life and provides a vivid portrait of a timeless Greek woman, whose story of love and loss is an eternal one.
The line in the description that compared this book to All the Light We Cannot See was what sold me on it. I loved All the Light and have also found myself really enjoying WW2 historical fiction so I was looking forward to this book. Also, the cover is beautiful! Definitely one I would’ve picked up off the shelf based on cover alone.
What I thought
This book was so interesting!
The story of My Last Lament is told by Aliki from present day. She is an old woman who is the last lamenter in her village (a lamenter being someone who sings special songs when people die) and she was contacted by a university student about her laments. Instead of using the cassettes to record her laments, she decides to record her life story during the end of WW2 and the beginning of the Greek civil war.
The beginning of this book was a little bit hard to get into just based on the writing style. I didn’t like that Aliki was very obviously talking into a cassette. I almost felt as though I was reading a transcript of a recording and it took me out of the story. Luckily, this doesn’t happen often so I was able to get over it.
A lot of the books that I’ve read that have taken place during WW2 have been in the US, the UK, and a few in France. I was curious when I found that this one was going to take place in Greece, not just because I haven’t read a WW2 novel that’s taken place in Greece, but I don’t think I’ve read any novels set in Greece. It was a bit of a history lesson as well, since the story starts towards the end of WW2 but there is still so much war occurring. I didn’t realize that they had a civil war immediately following WW2. It was really interesting to learn more about what was happening in Greece during the late 1940s.
The three main characters, Aliki, Takis, and Stelios were very interesting. I liked the way that they interacted with each other and how they each had their own problems, even though the only point of view we received was from Aliki. Three young adults/children are thrust into the world thanks to the war and the story follows them through their ups and downs as they try to find their place. This story is a bit unique in two respects; the first being that the main characters are so young and the second being that it mostly takes place in post WW2 but in a country still war torn.
The writing for this book is really nice. I felt like I was reading a bit of a classic story but not in an overly complicated way. I think that it was more the style of the writing than the writing itself that gave me his feeling. I finished this book relatively quickly because I really wanted to know where it was going. While it wasn’t a “can’t put down” because of mystery or suspense, I couldn’t put it down because I was invested in the story.
By: James William Brown