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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History reaches out to grasp us . . .
The Second World War in Europe was considered a Great Crusade. The crusaders were largely single-minded in their approach to the conflict, particularly in political matters. The invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany brought that Communist coalition into a rickety accord with the Western Allies. Loosely calling the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics "Russia", the...
Published on 18 Jan. 2006 by Stephen A. Haines

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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Paradise not found in Oz.
Keneally, as ever, does his research and roots his potentially intriguing tale in an old Australian true-life horror based on warring emigres. I've had a copy of 'A Family Madness' lying unread on my shelves for more than 20 years and, just lately, read it on the back of several yarns about the Soviet Union in the second world war ('Child 44' by Tom Rob Smith. 'A Writer...
Published on 15 Jun. 2008 by David Winsor


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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History reaches out to grasp us . . ., 18 Jan. 2006
By 
Stephen A. Haines (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Family Madness (Paperback)
The Second World War in Europe was considered a Great Crusade. The crusaders were largely single-minded in their approach to the conflict, particularly in political matters. The invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany brought that Communist coalition into a rickety accord with the Western Allies. Loosely calling the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics "Russia", the Allies lumped many peoples together. The member-states of the Soviet Union each had a sense of their own nationalism. In some cases, these client states gave uneasy welcome to the invaders in the belief they would thereby shed the Russian yoke.
Thomas Keneally has added to our awareness of these conditions with A FAMILY MADNESS. Many survivors of Nazi Germany fled Europe at war's end. So much attention has been given to those who found sanctuary in South America, that we tend to forget there were other places to hide from justice. Australia was a fine refuge for many European exiles in the post-war years. But those émigrés often carried a heavy mental and emotional burden.
Rudi Kabbel, Sydney security firm owner, is one such, his father having been a police chief in Nazi- occupied Belorussia. The weight of being the son of a man who assisted with the settlement of "the Jewish problem" in his nation rests severely on him. Belorussia, the Ukraine and other Soviet Union members took the view that Jews were the foundation of the Bolshevik movement. Russia, as the driving force in expanding Communism and degrading national aspirations. These nations had engaged in pogroms against the Jews at earlier times in their history. It was no novelty to continue it under the Nazis as an element in their resistance to Russian hegemony. So Stanislaw Kabbelski willingly became an instrument against the hated enemy of Russian Communist Jewry.
Keneally's method of tracing this complex time is by the creation of a Kabbelski family history and a diary of the elder Kabbelski. The family now lives in Sydney, running the security agency. Terry Delaney, becomes involved with the Kabbels as an employee of the agency. He complicates his association by having an affair with Rudi's daughter Danielle. As their situation evolves, Delaney becomes increasingly aware of Rudi's disturbed mental state. War criminal fugitives and their families are falling under increasing scrutiny. Rudi understands that "history makes its claim - history comes up and grabs people". Now it is reaching up to seize him and his family. And Terry Delaney is being swept up in its grip.
With the blood of Irish rebels in his veins and as an ardent leader in the Australian Republican Movement, Thomas Keneally is well versed it nationalist ideals. He's expressed his ideals in fiction and autobiography. He knows how it can be expressed and what pitfalls may be encountered. He doesn't have to be Belorussian to understand the workings of the Kabbelski mind. Nor does he fall into the trap of his strong nationalist sense overlooking brutality done in its name. Keneally's sense of humanity is only excelled by his ability to relate a story with consummate skill.
Keneally's greatest talent lies in how his words can convey the thoughts of others. Here, he's given us a view of some of the hidden events of World War II. We must be grateful to him for that effort. In today's environment of numerous bushfire wars and "incidents" in the name of nationalist aspirations, this book reminds us not to be caught by accepting simple answers to complex issues. Dig deeper, he cautions. Accept no superficial evidence for there is certain to be further evidence buried away - either by design or oversight. This book carries valuable reminders for us all. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In a suburb of Sidney a family of five willingly ended their lives..., 30 Dec. 2014
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Family Madness (Paperback)
Most people know this writer for his book Schindler’s Ark which was made into a film and re-titled Schindler’s List, but he has a long list of books, only a few of which I have read. He’s an author of whom I am slightly in awe, and no wonder. His subject with this book is the fate of Belo-Russia throughout the course of WWII. He has chosen a family to personify the anguish of the war years.

Terry Delaney lives in Penrith, Australia. He is a keen rugby player (not Union, League). He’s also a thinking of divorcing his wife, having fallen in love with Danielle, the daughter of a certain Dr. Rudi Kabbel, whose diaries form a good half or more of this book. The book has a strict time separation which is skilfully handled. Terry Delaney also keeps a diary of his success or failure in the rugby games he plays in a small-town league. In addition there are letters sent during the run-up to the end of the war. Terry is almost a touchstone for normality, especially as the wartime diaries of Stanislaw Kabbelski, Chief of Police in the Belorussian capitol city of Staroviche get a grip on the reader’s sensibilities.

It will not be a surprise that much of this account is brutal and terrible. The German Army is losing the war. Rudi Kabbel was once Stanislaw Kabbelski, but in the early years of the war, there were profound national and international confusions and ameliorations. The names the family adopts goes through several incarnations as he assumes a Polish identity in the unreported hiatus between now and then. The ending is like a blow to the solar-plexus.

People who like dense, passionate and uncompromising writing will particularly enjoy this book. I found it unputdownable. It is moderately paced, highly intelligent and tells of some of the gripping and most violent moments of the war with a kind of sad dispassion and deeply affecting panache. The diaries of Stanslaw are brilliantly written – tales of remorse, fear, despair.
The contrast of the two time periods are eloquently rendered and I thought this book was almost as good as Schindler’s Ark.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Paradise not found in Oz., 15 Jun. 2008
By 
David Winsor "voracious reader" (Kimberley, Notts.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Family Madness (Paperback)
Keneally, as ever, does his research and roots his potentially intriguing tale in an old Australian true-life horror based on warring emigres. I've had a copy of 'A Family Madness' lying unread on my shelves for more than 20 years and, just lately, read it on the back of several yarns about the Soviet Union in the second world war ('Child 44' by Tom Rob Smith. 'A Writer at War' by Vasily Grossmann etc). This one is a polyphonal narrative concerning the historical internecine angst within a family of Belorussian emigrants which ends in horrific bloodshed. The skill with which Keneally initially manages the various voices is both satisfying and compelling and there is clearly a moral seriousness that elevates this into the realms of the relatively high brow. Irritatingly, though, we get rather too much impenetrable Belorussian political intrigue and not enough in the way of insightful character development.This leaves the reader with a slight emptiness when it comes to empathy with the guiding consciousness of Delaney and perhaps tends to detract from the emotional power of the denouement.That said, certain storylines are genuinely engaging and the terror of a little boy who witnesses the assassination of an SS officer by partisans is memorably done. Similarly the same boy's nightmarish abduction and hiding in the latrine of a displaced persons camp lingers in the mind.
Overall, an interesting if over ambitious narrative that might have benefitted from some paring down, a lesson this author has taken on board in more successful recent stories such as 'The Widow and Her Hero.'
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting in parts, 12 April 2010
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This review is from: A Family Madness (Paperback)
Not really my sort of book - chosen for a book group. The parts I found the most interesting were those giving some historical back ground into WW2 in Bellarussia. We've since seen 'Defiance' with Daniel Craig [ASIN:B001O0E6IW Defiance [DVD] [2008] which ties in nicely as I already had the insight provided from 'Family Madness'. The more modern parts of the book set in Australia did not really appeal. A well written book but I feel no great urge to read another by this author.
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A Family Madness
A Family Madness by Thomas Keneally (Paperback - 9 Aug. 2001)
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