The title of Timothée de Fombelle’s Vango, Book 2 – A Prince Without a Kingdom, more than hints at who the lovely Vango might be. Born in 1915 and chased by Russians, you can guess. A prince he may well be, but what matters is what kind of man he has become. The answer to that is a very honourable one; someone who doesn’t choose the easy way, or what is best for himself.
Like Book 1, this is a wonderful, warm story. All Vango wants is to know who he is. He wants to be with the people he really loves and who matter to him, and more than anything he wants those people to be safe. Of necessity this means it’s a long book, set over six or seven years, with flashbacks to much earlier and with an ending a bit later still. It’s primarily set in the pre-WWII years and the first half of the war.
You have to love books like these. They are so rare, and so beautiful, as well as truly exciting. Nothing boring about it at all. It’s fascinating to see how the various plot strands are woven into the finished tale, and how it all works. I have to admit to having enjoyed myself so much that I forgot to look out for some little hints, which I ought to have noticed.
Vango goes to America, searching for the man who killed his parents. His old friend Padre Zefiro is also in America, wanting to kill another – bad – man. Their paths meet evey now and then, and Zefiro’s ‘gang’ do their bit, and Vango’s friends do theirs. Occasionally these paths also converge. And then there is Stalin, and there are the Germans, and the war.
I said about Book 1 that it was a little like I Am David. It still is, and for Book 2 I’d like to add that it’s also like Lisa Tetzner’s Die Kinder aus Nr. 67, especially the post-war development.
Plenty of humour in the midst of the drama and agony. And I suppose Timothée is young and male and won’t know that blow dries were fairly unlikely in 1937. But he makes good use of other real life events from those days, to the extent that you sit there thinking that maybe this is what really happened?
(Translation by Sarah Ardizzone)