An intriguing first novel by Dunne, an Irish journalist, that plays off a familiar ploy about Holocaust guilt in an unusual setting. Heinrich Obermayer is a highly successful industrialist, now living and thriving in Fernboro, a small Irish town. He has an Irish wife, Carmel, and an Irish son, Eamonn, and a secret from his German past. When a group of itinerants, Gypsy-like people called Travellers, settle on open ground near town, the locals are up in arms. The outrage cuts across class lines, uniting working-class families like the Sullivans and the nouveau riche Joe Murphy. At the same time it provides a political opportunity for the ambitious but unscrupulous Councillor Lehane and a dilemma for some crooked contractors. For Mary McCarthy, a Traveller, the sojourn provides a respite from the road life and a glimpse of how ``the quality'' lives, leading her into a longing for Eamonn. When tensions between the townspeople and the outsiders escalate, Obermayer finds himself drawn inexorably back into his memories of war, of service on the Russian front, and of a horrifying stint as an officer of a Sonderkommando unit, performing mass executions of Jews. With that nightmare in the back of his mind, he resists Murphy's attempts to bring him into the controversy until the rage of the locals erupts in violence and forces him to take sides. Dunne tells this story in a complicated, cinematic mosaic of flashbacks and cross-cutting, with a newspaperman's keen eye for the signifiers of class and caste. The story's development is predictable and the author cuts off the action at the climax, but there is much finely observed social commentary, even if it is buried in a somewhat obvious morality tale.
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