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Description - A Question of Loyalties by Allan Massie

Widely acclaimed as Massie's finest novel, A Question of Loyalties engages with all the complexities and ambiguities of loyalty, nationality and family as they are put under threat by betrayal, by errors of judgement, or simply friendship. Etienne de Balafre, half French, half English and raised in South Africa, returns to post-war France to unravel the tangled history of his own father. Was Lucien de Balafre a patriot who served his country as best he could in difficult times, or a treacherous collaborator in the Vichy government? Rife with the anguish of hindsight and the irony of circumstance, this powerful book brilliantly explores the ties between fathers and sons and the pains of love and duty in a period of European history that is still characterised by wilful denial and hatred.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9781841952994
ISBN-10: 1841952990
Format: Paperback
(196mm x 126mm x 21mm)
Pages: 352
Imprint: Canongate Classics
Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd
Publish Date: 8-Nov-2002
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Other Editions - A Question of Loyalties by Allan Massie

Book Reviews - A Question of Loyalties by Allan Massie

UK Kirkus Review » Ever since its publication in 1989, A Question of Loyalties has been widely regarded as a work of great literary and cultural significance. Massie dissects the nature of loyalty with great compassion and an unnerving acuity, as he appraises the devastating effect of the Second World War on France, not only as a nation, but also upon the lives of the men and women caught up in the bitter conflict between those living in occupied France, de Gaulle's Resistance fighters and Marshal Petain's Vichy government. But this is, above all, the story of how individuals cope with the conflicting loyalties forced upon them in times of war; loyalty to country, family and friends, and how that loyalty can be misplaced with tragic consequences. Etienne de Balafre has returned to France in the aftermath of the war, to try and discover the truth about his father, Lucien. His French grandmother gives him access to his father's papers, but is strangely reluctant to talk about his final days, only insisting that he was a hero; his Uncle Armand, Lucien's brother, is equally evasive. It is Armand's wife, Berthe, who finally tells him that Lucien killed himself in prison, leaving Etienne with yet more unanswered questions. Years later, spurred on by a letter from an American historian who is researching the Vichy era, Etienne re-examines his father's papers in a new light, gradually realizing that the man who was eventually regarded as a traitor and a collaborator was an inherently good man, a sensitive individual whose dearest wish was to serve his country. Lucien's idealism is ultimately his downfall - for a man of great literary vision, he is naively unaware of the dangers awaiting Petain and his supporters as the rise of Nazism continues inexorably. Caught up in the plot to assassinate Hitler in July 1944 through his affection for a young German officer, Lucien has enemies on all sides. It is only a matter of time before he is betrayed. Massie has succeeded in combining one man's intensely personal quest to discover the truth about his father and the bewilderment of an entire nation torn between the longing for freedom and the desire to protect its citizens, within one epic masterpiece. This novel addresses the impossibility of being truly loyal, because the term itself defies true definition. As Armand says in one of his final letters to Etienne: 'There is nothing I have found more perplexing and morally confusing than loyalties.' (Kirkus UK)

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Author Biography - Allan Massie

Allan Massie was born on 19 October 1938 in Singapore, and was educated at Trinity College, Glenalmond and Trinity College, Cambridge. He began his career as a teacher (1960-71) at Drumtochty Castle School, and also taught English as a second language in Rome (1972-5). He was Creative Writing Fellow at Edinburgh University (1982-4) and at Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities (1985-6). He was a member of the Scottish Arts Council (1989-91), a Trustee of the National Museums of Scotland (1995-8), and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Allan Massie was a columnist for the Glasgow Herald (1985-8) and the Sunday Times Scotland (1987-91), and has been fiction reviewer for The Scotsman since 1976. He has been a columnist for the Daily Telegraph since 1991, The Daily Mail since 1994, and the Sunday Times Scotland since 1996. A former editor of the New Edinburgh Review, he also contributes to the Sunday Telegraph and The Spectator.

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