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My Last Lament

by James William Brown

My Last Lament by James William Brown X
My Last Lament by James William Brown
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  • Published in USA  Apr 2017
    352 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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  • Diane T. (Slingerlands, NY)


    My Last Lament
    You are immediately drawn into "My Last Lament" by the main character, Aliki, as she recounts her life in a small Greek village during the last days of the German occupation of WW II and the ensuing Greek Civil War. As the story unfolds, she takes us on a journey of growing up amid the remains of a war that not only devastated her homeland but changed her personal life in ways that would impact her and her family forever.

    The agony that families endured during the Civil War in Greece is so vividly described by the author that you are caught up in the treachery that pitted brother against brother. Aliki's family is not immune to this and we witness her valiant effort to keep the family together at all costs. "Stelios once said that our stories never finish. They just get braided with those of others into some larger strand that only later generations can understand." This is Aliki's last lament.
  • Betty T. (Warner Robins, GA)


    Beautiful Writing
    This book was a true joy to read. It was beautifully written, with interesting characters and some little known Greek history. Being Jewish I have heard about the decimation of the Jews in Thessalonica and Rhodes. While the main character Aliki is not Jewish, another major character Stelios is. The book address what happened to the Jews and life on the islands after the Nazis were defeated. Alik, is the last professional lamenter – one who expresses grief – in her village. Lamenters were like mediums through whom the deceased's life is expressed at wakes. Aliki was also frequently visited by the dead.

    The story – of her own life - is told by Aliki via cassette tapes she is recording for a Greek-American scholar who is doing research on lament practices. Aliki tells of life in her little village under German occupation. When young Aliki is left orphaned she is taken in by Chrysoula, her friend Takis's mother. Chrysoula also provided shelter for a Jewish woman named Sophie and her son Stelios.

    Aliki, 17 years old, is caught in a love triangle involving her friend Takis (10 years old) and Stelios (nearer Aliki's age). While young they all had to mature quickly, witnessing the execution of family members and other villagers. Like many countries in Europe, when WWII was over the survivors then had to deal with civil wars.

    A form of entertainment at the time was the shadow theatre. I knew shadow puppetry was an ancient form of storytelling and entertainment in China, but I was not aware that it was used in Europe. A bit of the history of this art is given early on in the book. Stelios is quite proficient in it.

    Aliki laments on the tragedies they lived through, the "what-if's" that could have resulted in a totally different outcome, the ironies that of life, and the tarnishing of her home country.

    The book is slow reading but well worth it. I loved the characters and had an emotional investment in them. There was so much heartbreak, so many regrets, yet much courage.
  • Carol T. (Ankeny, IA)


    Like listening to a story
    I know my review title seems a little silly since this is a novel, which makes it, by definition, a story. However, it is so well-written that I felt like I was listening to Aliki (the lamenter) tell her story - she drew me in and I didn't want to put it down.
  • Cheryl P. (Lebanon, PA)


    My Last Lament
    A beautiful written story about young love, devotion, heart-break, and courage while trying to survive in a country torn apart by war. I was wrapped up in all three of the main characters and how they learned to survive and depend on each other. There was no pause in this story it flowed effortlessly. It was so hard to put down because you were right there in the story shadowing this orphaned family.
  • Sandra H. (St. Cloud, MN)


    War's Human Tragedy
    Set in Greece at the end of WWII, this fascinating novel pulled me into the lives of the peasants struggling to survive after the Germans have left leaving left them bereft and penniless. Many years later, Aliki, perhaps the last "lamenter" (one who sings a eulogy for the dead) is asked to make a record of the lost art of lamenting. However, Aliki tells her own story of that terrible time, of Stelios, a young puppeteer and the orphan Taki of their struggles and those of their fellow Greeks. The book becomes a lament for the life and traditions and human tragedies inflicted on and by the Greeks who survived this terrible time.
    We are all familiar with the stories of WWII in Europe, of the Jews sent to death camps and the Nazi cruelties but this book takes us to a country we have read little about. I strongly recommend the book for book groups.
  • Eileen C. (New York, NY)


    Love in the time of terror
    Set during a difficult time in Greece's history, Brown's engrossing novel explores important questions about love, family, and what happens to our relationships and sense of self during times of strife and terror. It is about resilience and what kind of power individuals retain even when they are essential powerless. Aliki's tale is full of humor and pathos, regret and understanding. Highly recommended.
  • Janine S. (Wyoming, MI)


    Captivating
    Reading My Last Lament was a captivating and enthralling experience. I hated to put it down for wanting to know what would happen next and how the threads would call come together. Aliki, the narrator, offers her story as a lament for things that are lost and cannot be returned but are necessary and worth the telling. As we share her story set against the backdrop of WWII and Greek resistance, we grow to admire her courage and her tenacity for sticking with what she views as right and necessary to do. Her decisions may not always seem to be the ones we, the readers, might do, but somehow we sense her choices are necessary as tragic as these might be. Aliki is never allows her to be diminished in life. In fact, her story ends with a great crescendo of awareness that in the telling, her lament is that we had have choices and life goes on in spite of them. The book has some great lighter moments as an older Aliki interacts with the Greek women in the village who carry on the Greek traditions of death and mourning. The highest compliment I can give a book is to read it again. This is a book worth reading more than once and I will be reading it often.
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