December 11, 2023 | Rome, Italy

My Father’s Secret War

By |2018-03-21T18:28:47+01:00January 1st, 2007|Recent Reviews|

By Lucinda Franks

Miramax, 2006. 352 pages.


all this one a wasted opportunity. All the ingredients are there: the author’s difficult relationship with a polymath father who loves firearms, parental conflict, the mystery of her father’s apparently secret second life as an American spy during World War II and the de-Nazification period, unknown chapters of American espionage.

The writing is journalese and the sentiment, like any sentiment that is poorly written, is perforce banal. While the author, a Pulitzer Prize winner, bewails her family’s detachment from their emotions, the reader is treated to stock scenes whose pre-packaged drama — her son poked full of I.V. tubes, the blended family making cider together — utterly fail to communicate the real emotion that one imagines must be there.

Her father was no doubt a difficult and complex person, but her blindness to him is hair-tearing. She seems a permanent adolescent, unable to see her admittedly difficult parents in any context other than her own view of them. This reader wondered why, although she knew the name of the man who had been on many of the same missions as the father who assiduously (and successfully) evaded telling her about them, years pass and both men are quite old before she finally decides to trace the friend only to find he has died six months before. I mean, duh

Madeleine Johnson has written her "Notebook" column for more than a decade. She lived in Italy for almost 30 years, mostly in Milan, before returning to the U.S. in 2017. Her work has been published in the "Financial Times" and "New York Post."