Vespers in Vienna
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By Bruce Marshall
The year is 1946. The Second World War is over but the tranquility of order is hardly restored to the city of Vienna. Charged by the Allied administrators “to rehabilitate Austria”—with a particular responsibility towards all “displaced persons”—the British Colonel Nicobar and his staff take up residence in the convent of the Daughters of the Holy Ghost, where they live under the noble auspices of the Reverend Mother Auxilia. The imperturbable serenity of the convent and its religious inhabitants throws into sharp relief the frantic and frenzied nature of life for the occupiers of Vienna and the illusiveness of the peace that they seek to impose on the city.
“We have a very good rule in the Army: If you want to avoid unpleasantness, never talk about politics or religion.”
Replete with the larger-than-life characters typical of Bruce Marshall’s fiction, Vespers in Vienna refuses to sacrifice intelligence and nobility to the interests of humor and romance in telling its tale. The result is an astute satire, comparable to Waugh’s Sword of Honor trilogy, boasting that rare blend of spiritual power and rich entertainment.
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Bruce Marshall (1899–1987) was a Scottish writer, accountant, veteran of both World Wars, and convert to Roman Catholicism. In a career spanning six decades, Marshall wrote forty novels, five of which will feature in the Cluny Classics series: Father Malachy’s Miracle, The Month of the Falling Leaves, The Accounting, Vespers in Vienna, and A Thread of Scarlet.