“If we accept that history belongs to the dead, then we will always be its slaves. If we write history ourselves, with all its complications and its ambiguities, then we take ownership of it, we accept responsibility.”
Quick summary: Omphalos is an ambitious historical novel by Mark Patton that connects several stories from different time periods to an ancient mound and chapel on the island of Jersey, La Hougue Bie. The novel opens with the story of Al Cohen, an American visiting Jersey to learn about his biological father, a German officer whose letters while stationed on Jersey and in a POW camp in Wales are featured. Patton also tells the stories of a female spy who fled to Jersey from revolutionary France, a Catholic priest and his secretary on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1517, a knight on a pilgrimage of pennance in 1160, and a sorceress in 4,000 B.C.
Why I wanted to read it: I was intrigued by the idea of several stories from different time periods being connected, and of course, I was especially curious about the story set during World War II.
What I liked: Once I got a handle on all the characters, I enjoyed watching their stories unfold and discovering their connections. I also enjoyed reading about so many different time periods in a single novel. Most of all, I appreciated the author’s note at the end of the book, where Patton separates the facts from the fiction and lists resources for further reading.
What I disliked: There are a lot of characters and story lines, so at times, it was hard to keep it all straight in my head. However, it helped that Patton gave titles to each of these stories and separated them by chapter.
Final thoughts: Omphalos is a fascinating look at thousands of years of history and the connections between events and people over time. The novel covers a lot of ground, from the Nazi occupation of Jersey and espionage during the French Revolution to religious pilgrimages and ancient epic journeys, and is sure to get readers thinking about their family history, as well as their connections to certain places and how generations of people have been there before them.
Thanks to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for having me on the tour for Omphalos. To learn more about the book and the author and to follow the tour, click the banner below.
Disclosure: I received Omphalos from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for review.
© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.