HERITAGE by Peter Driscoll


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Algeria, 1945-1962--in a highly contrived fictionalization (three brothers just happen to end up leading three major factions) that does manage to combine a serviceable history-lesson with a sturdy, readable family-saga. In 1945, vineyard owner Alexis Lombard, richest man in Algeria and leading pied-noir, spokesman, has four children with contrasting outlooks: eldest son Jean-Claude, a sad, hedonistic ne'er-do-well; second son Robert, a rising officer in the French Army, a decent fellow with great fondness for his WW II sergeant--Mohamed Bouhari, an Algerian Arab; young son Emile, a left-leaning student and ""Arab-lover""; and daughter Paule--a sensual, curious sort. So, over the years, the family (and old friend Mohamed) will follow diverging paths. Robert, after war-heroism in Vietnam, will bead up the French military presence in Algeria--first fending off FLN Arab terrorism, then also battling the ""Frontists"": white Algerians angry over French leanings toward Algerian self-determination. But father Alexis heads the Front, succeeded (after his FLN assassination) by a reluctant, blackmailed Jean-Claude. Furthermore, lawyer Emile, married to an Arab activist, speaks out for the Arab-nationalist viewpoint--though he's horrified to discover that his wife is sleeping with his father's assassin! And Paule, after being duped by an Arab terrorist-lover, marries US journalist Victor. . . while Mohamed, radicalized by the murder of his family, joins the FLN. Eventually, then, as FLN attacks escalate to virtual war through the 1950s and the Front opens fire on French soldiers, Robert (who personally urges de Gaulle to stand firm against the Front) finds himself in violent confrontations with brother Jean-Claude and old chum Mohamed. And things become even stickier in 1961, when the mutinous generals of the OAS take over the French-Algeria cause from the broken Front--especially since one OAS leader is the sadistic husband of Robert's cherished, impossible beloved. Throughout, in fact, historically-minded readers may wince as Driscoll (The Wilby Conspiracy, Pangolin) freely stirs soap-opera motivations into political/military events. Conversely, too, those who like their family-sagas romantic or domestic will find only sporadic pleasure here. But readers with a taste for thickly detailed, loosely dramatized history (strong on guerrilla action and ironic melodrama) will find this stolid, professional entertainment--firmly plotted, fully researched, reasonably atmospheric.

Pub Date: Oct. 8th, 1982
Publisher: Doubleday