June's Literary Blog

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Lambs of War

Sometimes, the best way to cope with the stark realities of life is to escape into an even harsher one. But, hopefully, one with the prospects of a brighter, better outcome. Which is exactly what I did this past week. When things fail and are terrifyingly disappointing, I turn to books; my surest and safest refuges in times of uncertainty. Even if the one I turned to was brutally stark and unmercifully truthful.

The Lambs of War, by Brian McManus, is a grim look into the world of Nazi Germany, circa 1943. Caught up in the throes of war and the horrors of brutal, misguided anti-Semitism, Isaac and his wife, Flora, have been avoiding the Nazi authorities for years. Commodore Adolf Ahrens, a respected food merchant in Bremerhaven, has them under his wing as employees in his household until the Gestapo discovers he is harboring the young Jewish couple. He calls a former friend, whose son is a camp officer at the Ravensbruck Labor Camp, hoping to save his charges from the upcoming “sweep”. He makes a deal that they will be able to stay together as husband and wife. But when they arrive at the camp gates, they are separated: Isaac to work in the household of the cruel Captain Heinrich Wurtzmeuller; Flora to join the ill-treated women who slave in the Ravensbruck munitions and clothing factories.

And then, Flora is told that Isaac had been shot and killed the very afternoon of their arrival…

McManus is a very capable storyteller. His plot lines are straightforward and tightly drawn, with a few clever “Surprise, I didn’t see that coming!” twists that keep the reader on the edge of the seat. Or, in my case, up late until the wee hours of the morning eagerly wanting to know what happens next. With a deft brush, he paints a stark picture of sadistically cruel Nazis, with their insatiable greed, infighting, and jealousies; juxtaposing their hate with the almost pure and hopeful love that Isaac and Flora have for one another. I was mesmerized by his intuitive insights into Isaac’s mind, as well as those of his other well-developed characters. In addition, it is evident this author has done quite a bit of research about Germany during World War II, not to mention capturing vivid and often lurid details of life in a forced labor camp. Even his background geography was spot on. 

However, while the author has a distinct flair for writing, there is a distinct lack of competent editing. Too many grammatical errors, typographical mistakes, often misused words, and more than occasional awkward phraseology were distracting, crippling what could have otherwise been a smooth, stunningly superb read. In my own experiences as a self-published author, one instantly loses credibility as a capable novelist when the literary standards of our profession are cast aside for the sake of expediency.

That being said, McManus does provide us with a rude, more than realistic awakening that overflows with action, suspense, romance, pursuit, and the ever-present persistent quest for survival. The Lambs of War is a no-holds-barred insight into what misogyny, racism, cruelty, sexism, and the lack of basic human decency and kindness can easily foster. It is, without doubt, a rip-roaring good story that, despite its flaws, should not be missed. Nor its message dismissed.

2:01 pm est          Comments

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June J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is an author, poet, and librettist. Her currently published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations, two volumes of poetry, stories for children (of all ages) and a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
Miss Elmira's Secret Treasure: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
Colonial Theatre: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Roarin' 20s 
Phoenix Hose, Hook & Ladder: A Novel of Phoenixville during World War I
Columbia Hotel: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of Phoenixville in 1978
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World War II
Rainbow in the Sky
Meditations for New Members

Adventures of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Spinach Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A Collection of More Spiritual Poems

We Three Kings

Beauty and the Beast


Noah's Rainbow

Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding Hood



Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She is currently working on her sixth novel.

June's novels can be purchased at amazon.com, through Barnes and Noble,
at the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area,
the Gateway Pharmacy in Phoenixvile, PA

For more information about her musicals, which are also available on amazon.com,