A classic novel set in the siege of Malta 1940-1942 from the bestselling author of The Cruel Sea Father Salvatore was a simple, lumbering priest, a Kappillan serving the poor Valetta, when war came out of the blue skies to pound the island to dust. Now amid the catacombs discovered by a chance bomb, he cared for the flood of homeless, starving, frightened people who sought shelter from the death that fell unceasingly from the sky. His story, and the story of Malta, is told in superbly graphic pictures of six days during the siege. Each of those days brought forth from the Kappillan a message of inspiration to keep them going - the legendary tales of six mighty events of Malta's history which shone through the centuries and gathered them together in a fervent belief in their survival.
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(198mm x 133mm x 31mm)
Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
Country of Publication:
US Kirkus Review »
It's difficult to make good, fictional priests attractive or even believable. The characters who seem to engage us most are the "problem priests," cf. Graham Greene, Brian Moore. That this is so may have as much to do with the quality of the writing as with the construction of the character. At any rate, Monsarrat's novel arrives with raves from English reviewers with regard to his creation of Father Salvatore, or Dun Salv, as his devoted parishioners call him. The story is set during the siege of the British possession of Malta from June, 1940 until August, 1942. Father Salvatore, the kappillan (Maltese for priest) is the descendant of an ancient Maltese family. His mother, the Baroness Celeste Santo-Nobile reigns in aristocratic splendor despite the perils surrounding them. His brother, Benedict, lives in sophisticated style in Paris where he now entertains the Germans. Lewis, his brother-in-law, is an Italian sympathizer whose allegiance will land him in prison before the war is over. But Fr. Salvatore chooses to remain "a priest without preferment" and to this end he quotes St. Jerome: "Avoid, as you would the plague, a priest who is also a man of business." When his church is bombed he establishes his congregation in the catacombs which now serve as a 24 hour air-raid shelter. During the course of the war Fr. Salvatore is removed by his superiors because of the conduct of his "flock" in the primitive conditions of the caves and because his own role has grown too "exalted." At first he rebels against the discipline but finally accepts the chastisement and spends the following 30 years in seclusion at a nearby monastery. To his people he remains a hero. The structure of Monsarrat's novel is masterly - many subplots being carefully interwoven. But what really holds the reader's attention and admiration is the story of Malta itself which has been conquered many times in its long history. The problems and character of Father Salvatore, however, are not sufficiently complex to truly absorb us. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Nicholas Monsarrat
Nicholas Monsarrat was born in Liverpool in 1910, and was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. He served in World War II, first as a member of an ambulance brigade and then as a member of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. His lifelong love of sailing made him a capable naval officer, and he served with distinction on a series of small warships. Resigning his wartime commission in 1946, Monsarrat entered the diplomatic service. He turned to writing full time in 1959, settling on the Mediterranean island of Gozo. He died of cancer in 1979 and was buried at sea from a destroyer, off Portsmouth.