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My Father's Secret War: A Memoir

Average Rating 3.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

A great memoir...impeccably written...

This book is quite interesting. It's the memoir of the author's father, obviously, but it's more than that.
Frank (the father) was in the military in the 1940's. Lucinda doesn't know it when she sets out to find out what his role was, but he was a spy. A lot of the ...
This book is quite interesting. It's the memoir of the author's father, obviously, but it's more than that.
Frank (the father) was in the military in the 1940's. Lucinda doesn't know it when she sets out to find out what his role was, but he was a spy. A lot of the things he did were secret, and were never to be spoken about, but she ends up through thorough research, by finding some things in his belongings and by eventually convincing him to speak, finding out exactly what he did.
The short highlights are that he taught others in the military in the use of weapons, he created secret bombs and weapons, he infiltrated the Nazi's and went into their ranks as a Nazi, and he went into a Nazi Internment Camp at the time of liberation to report back to the military about what was going on in the camps and the conditions. That's the extremely short list.
This is also the story of a relationship between a father and a daughter. By finding out what her father faced in the militar, she was able to get closet to him as a father and as a person. She could finally understand why he would remain stone-faced when he should be happy, why he covered up things he had done (not just in the military), why he treated her mother as he did, why he treated the rest of the family as he did, and why he took a mistress.
She ends up having complete respect for her father, her mother and the mistress.
The one minor disappointment is that the book jacket made this seem like it would be about her father's role in the Holocaust. That was such a minor part of the story, that it really shouldn't have been such a big part of the book jacket. The story was still amazing, though.
Pick it up and check it out. It was great. It really doesn't hurt that the author is a language artist. Her writing is impeccable!

posted by JennGrrl on April 18, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

Skip this memoir

My Father¿s Secret War by Lucinda Franks perfectly exemplifies what is wrong in the world today: nepotism. Thanks to the wonder of connections (Franks is a reporter for the New York Times), we have a book about an ordinary couple stuck in a poor marriage, and a self-abs...
My Father¿s Secret War by Lucinda Franks perfectly exemplifies what is wrong in the world today: nepotism. Thanks to the wonder of connections (Franks is a reporter for the New York Times), we have a book about an ordinary couple stuck in a poor marriage, and a self-absorbed daughter who tends to go for the melodramatic. My Father¿s Secret War is a story with two goals: to try and understand the parent/child relationship, and to piece together a father¿s role in World War II.

Franks begins by exposing her parent¿s foibles and their disintegrating marriage. Like so many families, this one has its problems -- in this case an angry mother and a philandering father. While this is a sad tale, it does not deserve to be exposed to the general public. Franks goes to great lengths to reconstruct her parent¿s marriage, including the sharing of their love letters to prove their initial passion. Written at the beginning of their relationship, and just after Franks¿ father was shipped overseas, the letters shed little light on their marriage and are standard fare for newlyweds. Later, Franks describes her father¿s relationship to his girlfriend Pat, her mother¿s manipulative behavior, and her reaction to these events. Again, Franks¿ rendition of her family¿s difficulties does not merit publication.

The second and more disturbing narrative centers on Franks¿ obsession regarding the ¿truth¿ about her father¿s military role in World War II. Franks goes to great lengths to prove that her father was a hero and spy in the war, ¿Here I am, walking over broken shells with a man I never knew: a weapons instructor for the Resistance, a courier behind enemy lines, who knows what else.¿ Franks constructs several accounts about her father¿s war service, and though she attempts to put the pieces of the puzzle together, the evidence is ambiguous. Not satisfied that her father played his role in the war, and did so without fanfare (like so many brave men of that generation), she seeks to find a greater place in history for him. It is almost as though Franks is trying to polish her pedigree to impress those around her.

Under the guise of trying to bridge the gap between daughter and father, Franks subjects her father to endless hours of interrogation about his role in the war. Her father, who suffers from Alzheimer¿s, is clearly exhausted and in poor health, yet Franks is like a dog with a bone ¿ she will not let go. Married to New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, and obviously financially well off, Franks¿ personal admissions are frankly embarrassing. When asked by her father¿s friend to help lift her dad¿s financial burden, she responds: ¿We just can¿t do it Lou. We¿ve got three households to maintain; we¿re already spread too thin.¿ At the very end of the book we learn the real reason Franks has written this story: ¿I had wanted to hurt my father as much as he had hurt me. I¿d nagged him, manipulated him into confessions, then shamelessly condemned him. Little by little, I¿d forced him to give up every shred of camouflage, until he was utterly exposed.¿ Mission accomplished.

Quill says: This book is a sad reminder of the contrast between those brave men and women who did their work and lived their lives with dignity, and the self absorption of the baby boomer generation.

posted by FeatheredQuillBookReviews on January 20, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2007

    Disappointing

    I was looking forward to reading this, but was disappointed. I actually thought of setting it aside a couple times. Clearly, the author went through an important therapeutic process in writing this book. But for readers, the word-for-word conversations and reminiscing about family spats gets tedious. Her detailed descriptions of her and her husband's wealthy lifestyle also grate. A lot of this material could have been edited out. I would have preferred that all this led up to a less fragmented narrative of her father's wartime service, rather than a gradual teasing out of the details over the course of the book. For much better pieces about fathers in WWII, I recommend Jonathan Franzen's portrait of his father in 'The Corrections,' Alan Gurganus' piece 'Minor Heroism' in his collection called 'White People,' or James Bradley's 'Flags of our Fathers.'

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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