Family, Historical Fiction

My Last Lament by James William Brown

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Aliki is a lamenter, one who mourns and celebrates the passing of life. She is the last of her kind, part of a Greece that is evolving and moving away from its rural culture. When an American researcher asks Aliki to record her laments, Aliki instead chooses to sing her own story, which begins in a village in northeast Greece when Aliki witnesses the execution of her father by the occupying Nazi soldiers. A young girl with no other family and nowhere else to go, Aliki is taken in by her friend Takis’s mother and is joined by a Jewish refugee and her son, Stelios. When the village is torched and its inhabitants massacred, only Aliki, Stelios, and Takis manage to escape – just as the war is ending.
As the three make their way across chaotic post-war Greece, they become a makeshift family, bound by friendship and grief and threatened by betrayal and madness.

This novel was well-written and had an interesting premise. However, it wasn’t the story I was expecting. Reading the premise, I thought that the focus would be more on how Aliki became a lamenter and what it all means culturally, as lamenting is a process I am not familiar with and would love to read more about. Instead, this novel focused on how Greece was affected by the invasion of Nazi soldiers. Yes, this is a perspective I have not read about as of yet. But there was really nothing to make this novel stand out in my mind in comparison to every other novel on the same topic. The switch from the present time to the recounting of past memories was not always very clear; at times, I found it to be jarring when the switch happened and had to read the page over again to be clear. This wasn’t a terrible book by any means, but it wasn’t what I was expecting, and so it left me a bit disappointed. I would recommend this book for anyone wanting to read about the Nazi occupation of Germany. Because that is the main focus of the book. Not lamenting.

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