Women’s Book March: Amnesty by Lara Elena Donnelly

I’m challenging myself to read only novels by women and femme people for a full year, from March 2019 through March 2020. Read this post to get the full story!

For my first Women’s Book March pick of May, I read Amnesty by Lara Elena Donnelly! Amnesty is the third and final volume in Donnelly’s debut Amberlough Dossier trilogy, a taut blend of film noir and espionage novel that creates a vivid depiction of the rise of fascism in a world much like ours.

The first novel, Amberlough, introduces the book’s eponymous city on the eve of the rise to power of the One State Party, colloquially called the Ospies. The OSP is a political organization eerily (and deliberately) reminiscent of the National Socialist German Workers Party, better known as the Nazis. Donnelly has said that she based the setting of Amberlough heavily on Germany’s Weimar republic, because she wanted to show the vibrant culture that was lost to the Nazi crackdown, and which isn’t often talked about today.

Without giving too much away since it’s the last volume, I will say that Amnesty takes place after the One State Party has come and gone and the country of Gedda is rebuilding democracy. But it’s not enough to rebuild: politics demands that someone be punished for the tyranny of the past few years. Cyril DePaul, former spy and unwilling collaborator with the Ospies, may very well become that sacrifice–unless his estranged sister and former lover can work together to save him from the public’s wrath.

Donnelly’s characterizations are as excellent as ever in Amnesty: she deftly yet clearly shows Cyril’s struggle with PTSD and sketches the hardships he’s been through over his years in exile, without loading the book down with pages of backstory.

His former lover Aristide had a softer exile, waiting out the Ospies as a movie producer in a foreign country, yet even that has left him depressed and in thrall to an unnamed but clear-on-the-page alcohol addiction.

Aristide is sick, and Cyril is broken, and both of them have given up on life at the start of the book … which makes it all the more powerful to see them rediscover purpose in each other, and in the chance to do something more than live or die as a symbol of a past now gone. This is a story not just of living with trauma, but of living through it toward hope and healing, both as a country and as individuals. For fans of film noir, spy thrillers, or just a ripping good story, I cannot recommend this series enough.

Already read Amnesty? Let me know what you thought in the comments!

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