THE LAURELS OF LAKE CONSTANCE by Marie Chaix

THE LAURELS OF LAKE CONSTANCE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

For those who remember World War II with any deep feeling, this novelized portrait of a French fascist by his daughter may prove disturbing. The father--she refers to him simply as ""Albert""--is never called a fascist outright; rather he is a patriotic Frenchman, a man of the right, intensely anti-communist, and interested in the ""social question."" A wealthy chemical engineer, he, in the turbulent 1930s, becomes a follower of Jacques Doriot, chief of the blue-shifted Parti Popular Francais. After the French defeat, he joins Doriot in a policy of collaboration with the Germans, although, according to the book, he might have cast his lot with De Gaulle if the English hadn't angered him by destroying the French fleet to prevent it from falling into German hands. The essence of the novel is the interplay between this man's political career and the life of his family, who loved him and supported him, not only in the halcyon days when collaboration paid off, but also in the bitter aftermath when he was sentenced to life-at-hard-labor for wartime crimes. The fact that men with reprehensible ideas may have loyal wives and children should come as no surprise. The problem is that the author, with immense skill and subtlety, makes Albert's ideas seem less reprehensible in order to embrace him as a father. Said to have been a best seller in France, this book, in some ways touching, is a disservice to truth, since it sidesteps such problems as the father's anti-Semitism, and a disservice to the many victims of French fascism, who paid an even greater price than Albert's immediate family.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1977
Publisher: Viking