A Novel – Author: Philip Carr-Gomm – Publisher: The Oak Tree Press – in e-book and paperback versions – Publication Date: August 2016 – ISBN: 1903232031
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‘A compelling tale of love and betrayal in occupied France.’
Rated Five Stars ***** Manhattan Book Review
‘Masterfully combines elements of the transcendent with historical fact and throws in a romance for good measure… A hauntingly beautiful story…’
Rated Five Stars ***** San Francisco Book Review
‘An extraordinary work of the compassionate imagination.’
Lindsay Clarke, author The Chymical Wedding
‘Mysterious. Magical. Erotic. An incredible story.’
Mark Townsend, author The Gospel of Falling Down
‘Fascinating and completely engrossing.’
Barbara Erskine, Sunday Times Bestselling author
‘A vivid portrayal of war, friendship and our deepest desires.
Compelling writing and research. Superb.’
Dr Brian Bates, author The Way of Wyrd
‘A powerful romance, on many levels – part political thriller, part esoteric journey, and part moving love story. I couldn’t put it down and came away both informed and satisfied.’
William Ayot, author Re-enchanting the Forest
When Luftwaffe pilot Hermann Kaestner falls in love with a French clairvoyant, who will he be forced to betray – his country, his lover, or his own soul?
The world has now forgotten the Druidess of Brocéliande, but at the height of her fame she was predicting the fate of nations and the outcome of the war to thousands seated in the Salle Pleyel in Paris. In the streets outside, the French police were rounding up Jews while German officers were entertained in brothels and slept in the city’s best hotels.
Based on the lives of Geneviève Zaepffel and Abbé Henri Gillard, creator of a church dedicated to the Holy Grail.
Following the fateful intersection of three lives during the chaos of World War II, The Prophecies, is a love story set in the magical, Arthurian Forest of Brocéliande. That said, anything written by Philip Carr-Gomm, author of Sacred Places and The Book of English Magic, is going to be much more than that. In fact, The Prophecies is an engrossing dive into the history of esoteric research in the 20th century, an unsettling exploration of Nazism’s philosophical underpinnings, and a profound meditation on love, sex and duplicity – involving that greatest of all betrayals – the betrayal of one’s own soul.
In this engaging and well-written book, we follow a young and idealistic Luftwaffe pilot, Hermann Kaestner, as he variously falls in love with and befriends two ‘real-life’ French historical personages in the forms of Geneviève Zaepffel, a celebrated medium of the day, and the Abbé Henri Gillard, rector of Tréhorenteuc, who built a controversial ‘Grail Church’ in the rural heart of Brittany, beside the mythic Brocéliande. As these three play out their relationships in the magical landscape, Kaestner becomes ever more embroiled in the weird questing of Himmler’s SS Ahnenerbe (a research division set up to justify Hitler’s mythical claims for an Aryan race). Finally, as Kaestner’s contradictory role and values begin to tear him apart, the stage is set for a multiple tragedy.
Quite apart from the author’s erudition and the book’s increasing pace, much of the enjoyment in this cleverly wrought novel is to be found in the odd sense of shifting ground one experiences as the threads of these stories unwind and the lines begin to blur, between fact and fiction, truth and lies, modern day reality and ancient fantasy. Meanwhile the clever use of contemporary and period photographs heightens the sense of reading ‘non-fiction’ as the book slips quietly into fiction’s more obscure territory.
There’s a Hardy-esque richness to the chosen locale which brings the landscape of Arthurian Brittany alive with all the gloom and torpor of one of Thomas Hardy’s more oppressive villages. Both major and minor characters are well delineated, the plot rings true with some genuine surprises, and the visceral climax of the central love affair is likely to stay with this particular reader for a long, long time.
Whether you are interested in twentieth-century esoterica, the deeper weirdness of National Socialist Party philosophy, the mapping of Grail Legends over the central story of Christianity, or the contradictory workings of the human heart, this book is a rewarding and enjoyable read. I heartily recommend it.
Review for Touchstone magazine by William Ayot, author ‘Re-enchanting the Forest’
The Prophecies is an intriguing, learned but immediately accessible fictional account of the occupation of Brittany by the Nazis in World War Two. Philip Carr-Gomm, whose previous writings have been non-fictional studies of Druids, naturism and places of pilgrimage, has skilfully woven two real-life characters, the Grail-obsessed Abbé Henri Gillard and the clairvoyant Geneviève Zaepffel, into a compelling fiction exploring the Nazis’ fascination with mysticism (which they used to foster their ideas of racial purity, enlisting it in the struggle they saw as taking place between the Aryan and Semitic races).
The Prophecies can be read on one level as a straightforward war novel – even a wartime romance à la Sebastian Faulks – with currently fashionable ingredients (chief among them the Grail legend touched on by Dan Brown et al.), but it is much more than this courtesy of the plethora of philosophical ideas it contains, and the sophistication with which it deals with them. Its overriding concern is with moral ambiguity; all three central characters are complex, intensely human mixtures of intellectual curiosity and prejudice. It also sheds light, in a manner unmatched since the now sadly undersung war novels of Storm Jameson, on a neglected (because uncomfortable) facet of the German occupation of France: the guarded welcome accorded the invaders by the inhabitants of a Brittany promised freedom after a German victory. The book’s adept interlacing of its fictional story with Zaepffel’s and Gillard’s extraordinary lives (and particularly the judicious use of black-and-white images to bring certain scenes to life) brings the pioneering work of W. G. Sebald to mind, but overall, this is an original, gripping and consistently readable novel which works beautifully on the page, but might also profit from being filmed. Chris Parker
‘The Prophecies takes the real life characters of self-professed Druidess Geneviève Zaepffel and creator of a grail church Abbé Henri Gillard and weaves an intriguing fictional tale around their involvement with a Luftwaffe pilot Hermann Kaestner. Set in Europe during World War II, Philip Carr-Gomm eloquently explores the darker side of love, betrayal and the search for personal freedom and truth in a world distorted by a collective shadow. Carr-Gomm’s characters are ambiguous and deeply human, showing where even the best of intentions can be blindsided by delusion, desire and complacency. Beautifully written, this fascinating story illustrates well how the personal and collective spiritual or political quest can possess its own shadow; that in the grip of this shadow’s momentum we can each become victim or perpetrator – and at times both – seemingly caught up in events beyond our control and yet, paradoxically, collaborators in their unfolding. Despite this, The Prophecies is essentially a book about the search for redemption, played out through the darker complexities of sex, love, spirituality and death that reflect the wider landscape of war, political psychopathy and moral dissolution. An accomplished debut novel.’ Amazon review by Maria Ede-Weaving