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My Father's Secret War: A Memoir

3.33  ·  Rating Details ·  562 Ratings  ·  115 Reviews
In this moving and compelling memoir about parent and child, father and daughter, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Lucinda Franks discovers that the remote, nearly impassive man she grew up with had in fact been a daring spy behind enemy lines in World War II. Sworn to secrecy, he began revealing details of his wartime activities only in the last years of his life as he becam ...more
Hardcover, 311 pages
Published March 14th 2007 by Miramax Books (first published 2007)
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Sep 07, 2009 Rick rated it liked it
Not quite what I expected. I thought the story would reveal more about the story behind the box of WWII trinkets that a daughter finds in her fathers old age that led her to find out if he was a spy. She did find out clues here and there but most of the book revealed little about the missions or her fathers background but was more of a memior about her relationship with her father and her own demons. The irony is Lucinda Frank's who is apprently wealthy (married to NY's DA) has a farm house and ...more
Talulah Mankiller
Sep 08, 2010 Talulah Mankiller rated it it was ok
Lucinda Franks grew up in one of those hellish, emotionally stunted postwar families that baby boomers are always writing about. Mommy and daddy didn’t love each other anymore but stuck together “for the kids”; daddy was a functioning alcoholic and mommy was extremely obese, which Franks seems to think are like, matching disorders. Anyway. There was a lot of screaming and yelling and shouting and withholding of affection on mom’s part, not to mention some outright verbal abuse; daddy just wasn’t ...more
Jul 19, 2009 Sarah rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Egotists
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 29, 2012 Lil rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book - I fell for the "Pulitzer Prize winning author" tagline - but it was too much like A Penny Always Has Two Sides: A Memoir of Growing Up in Wartime Germany: the majority of the book was about the author's knotty relationship with her parent and her attempts to assuage her guilt. Lucinda Franks is a better writer than Steffie Steinke, but I still ended up skimming huge amounts of description - it just gets too ponderous and really bogs down the pacing, which in many pla ...more
Lori Anderson
Mar 24, 2011 Lori Anderson rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir, wwii
Aw, man. I really wanted to like this book, particularly since it was a Pulitzer Prize winning book.

If you've followed any of my reviews, you know I love to read WWII history and memoirs. This book had the makings of a good one, but it was sloooooow. I found myself drifting and dozing off and skimming. Franks could have left out a solid third of the book and tightened it up and it would have been a lot better.

Sorry, not recommended.

Lori Anderson

Jun 08, 2007 Stephanie rated it did not like it
I kept waiting for the "a-ha" moment, the startling climax, which never came. I can't believe how this woman badgered her poor, Alzheimer's-ridden father for a good story (which wasn't good, after all). Oh, yeah, and by the way, no one cares about your name-dropping and life of privilege, Ms. Franks.
Martha Bogart
Feb 05, 2015 Martha Bogart rated it it was amazing
Great book and great story. Excellent read. Terrible tragedy about how the horrors of war can change a person.
Elizabeth Maurer
Jul 20, 2015 Elizabeth Maurer rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2015, summer-reading
I hated this book. I have never been so happy to finish a book, so I could put it aside and never look at it again. At first the book made me angry but now I am just exhausted. I mean I guess I should give the author props for the way she portrayed herself "warts and all", but to me she came across as unlikable and frustrating that I couldn't get past some of the things she did/said.

1. The books title is very misleading. The title and the dust jacket makes it seem as if the story will be about T
Jul 09, 2015 Steve added it
Shelves: bookreporter
Imagine, for a moment.

You are a young child. Your father is the greatest hero you could hope for. He is a protector and a devoted man. You feel safe with him.

You are getting older. Your father is not how you saw him when you were a child. He is sad, drinks to excess, and tells you he loves a woman other than your mother and wants to leave. He is no longer a hero to you.

He takes long business trips, but your mother can never locate him where he says he's going. Phone calls to the house have no on
This book was disappointing. Touted as a memoir about her father, a man who had a secret life as a spy, it really became a book about her. The reader for this audio was poor. She over emoted and was not able to do voices well. Her impersonation of every male character was the same and not believable as a male voice. The dialogue was often trite and it felt as if the author was sometimes a spoiled child trying too hard to wax poetic and the reader was trying to hard to express herself.
Lucinda Fra
Mia Tryst
Jul 21, 2009 Mia Tryst rated it really liked it
The book begins with the all-but-destroyed figure of the father, who is lonely, living in abject conditions, broken down and apparently given up on life. The daughter loves her father, but he has become a burden. There is resentment in having to care for an elder person who seemingly gave up on his family years ago. Slowly, we discover an incredible man who, aside from being a war hero, was a dedicated father, a patriot...a man, who at some point pushed away his family because he felt rejected a ...more
Jan 11, 2013 Cameron rated it really liked it
On the face of it, this is a fairly straightforward story of a daughter discovering the details of her father's wartime experiences as he enters the last years of his life. But there is a very complex interplay here of a psychologically traumatized soldier and his struggle to raise a family, of a daughter caught between a distant, distressed father and a chronically grieving mother, and finally, of a woman caring for her dying father. What makes this truly fascinating is that Lucinda Franks is a ...more
Dec 31, 2015 Christy rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
In this moving and compelling memoir about parent and child, father and daughter, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Lucinda Franks discovers that the remote, nearly impassive man she grew up with had in fact been a daring spy behind enemy lines in World War II. Sworn to secrecy, he began revealing details of his wartime activities only in the last years of his life as he became afflicted with Alzheimer's. His exploits revealed a man of remarkable bravado -- posing as a Nazi guard, slipping behind en ...more
Nov 17, 2007 Margie rated it it was amazing
Both more and less than what I expected when I picked this book up off the library shelf, nevertheless I found it to be a compelling read.

Initially I thought to find a recounting of the heroic adventures of a WWII spy. Instead, I discovered the author's introspective recounting of her troubled relationship with a distant and hard-to-understand parent.

The pages of this story relate the author's struggles to come to terms with her father and the role he played in her life, a role she often felt w
Nov 09, 2008 Jessica rated it it was ok
"Badgering". That's the word that comes to mind when I think about this book.

I had originally thought it was going to be about the author's father, and what he may or may not have been doing during World War II, but instead it read such that the author was primary, and the father seemed an afterthought.

While I understand what she was trying to find out about her father - possibly a reason why he was so distant while she was growing up, or a cause to the alcoholism - the way she went about it s
Aug 13, 2009 Joanne rated it really liked it
I thought this was a fairly good book of redemption. It was set in the backdrop of WWII and the daughter's quest to find out about her father's activities as a secret agent during the war. The author was able to discover the true nature and persona of her father, with which she was able to finally have a true relationship with him. One thing however was the definite lack of motherly acceptance on the part of Lucinda. She had for years harbored bad feelings for both her parents. She was able to d ...more
May 08, 2010 Marguerite rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, history
This memoir begins as a mystery, a story about a loved one's double life as a World War II spy. It then turns into a portrait of a dysfunctional family, with a mysterious subtext. But as Lucinda Franks digs into her father's past, she does find secret lives: parents who loved each other passionately, military missions still too secret to talk about, immersion in major world events. Franks can't tie things up neatly, but her journey might be more interesting for that. And, she and her father are ...more
Nov 16, 2007 Tara rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction-read
The first word that comes to mind after finishing this book is complicated.

This book is more than anything else one woman's quest for self-discovery through a better understanding of her family, particularly her father.

The complications came as I was unsure how to interpret so many parts of her journey. Was she selfish and perhaps even cold of heart as she badgered her elderly father for answers to his past? Or, is she a daughter simply wanting to know her father better and, in turn, know hersel
Feb 25, 2008 Judy rated it really liked it
As Franks' father begins to slip into dementia, she discovers some Nazi uniform parts among his things, starting her on an investigative journey into what her father REALLY did during World War II. At first, he is completely resistant to her queries, saying that he pledged never to speak of his activities, but as his mind begins to slip, he begins to divulge more information. Even after his death, Franks continues her quest to learn all she can about her father's secret service activities. As sh ...more
Sep 30, 2009 Heidi rated it it was ok
I must admit that I didn't make it through. The writing was amazing (the author has won a Pulitzer) but the story seemed to cycle through the same sequence over and over- memories of childhood or moments from current life, the author's interrogation of her father about his secret war time activities, then speculation about said activities.
I did want to persevere, because I think that there was some really amazing material related to her father's top secret career, but every time I went to pick i
Apr 13, 2008 Donna rated it really liked it
Lucinda grew up in a family with parents who were unloving and aloof towards each other, and oftentimes toward her and her sister. As an adult, she explores her relationship with her father (her mother died) and suspects that her father was a secret agent during WWII. As an investigative reporter , she pieces together his history and thus her own. She finds out the horrors and pain that her father experienced during the war that caused him to retreat to the basement as his sanctuary while she gr ...more
Mar 21, 2008 K.K. rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008-book-log
As I am doing research into the WWII era and preparing to write my own novel based in that time, I really enjoyed reading the insights that this book had to offer.

This is a memoir. Though some parts are a little slow because the author is trying to cram in a lot of info (so she has to do this through coversations that seem a bit tedious), overall the book was fantastic. I actually cried. Sitting on my bed. Real tears. You get the gist.

I think that memoirs are an important genre though probably
Oct 30, 2008 Ashley rated it really liked it
At times this book was hard to read. The complicated relationship between daughter and father. The transition between the daughter as child to adult and then her father as the adult to dependent child. A distant ailing father suffering from dementia and lung cancer and a cold hearted daughter, find each other in the end of his life. Lucinda Franks, is very open with her family's relationship, secrets, and pain. It was sad and yet in the end, there was a inner peace that was found within the fami ...more
Jan 23, 2010 Joni rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ww2
Biography - Her dad really was a US spy, impersonating Nazis to steal and thwart secret Nazi plans.
In this moving and compelling memoir about parent and child, father and daughter, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Lucinda Franks discovers that the remote, nearly impassive man she grew up with had in fact been a daring spy behind enemy lines in World War II. His exploits revealed a man of remarkable bravado---posing as a Nazi guard, slipping behind enemy lines to blow up ammunition dumps, and being
Nov 18, 2011 Laura rated it liked it
This story is 60% family/relationship, 40% World War II history. It's a true story about a young man who spied for the Allies and was sworn to secrecy. The things he did haunted him to his grave. They effected him so strongly that his family life slowly turned into a shipwreck.

The author, a New York Times journalist, paints her father's story jumping into his past and relaying her own to connect the dots. Definitely a very unique look at WWII and its effect on those involved, secretly or not.

Aug 24, 2014 Tammy rated it liked it
The title of this book is misleading. I thought I would read about a daughter's discovery that her father had been a war hero and while I found some of that, the bulk of the material was her disappointment in her parents. The author got to know her father through 50 yr old letter and friend's stories as she cared for him at the end of his life. I felt terribly sorry for her father through the entire book. The daughter appeared smug and rude from a very young age and didn't share it with her read ...more
Sep 16, 2008 Sharon rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Cortney, Michelle
Recommended to Sharon by: found it at book store
I've always been fascinated by government secrets and behind the scenes happenings. So this book delivered for me. Franks, a NY Times reporter, tells the true story of the unraveling of her father's secret life. It was entertaining and fast moving. I also enjoyed the development of her relationship with her father as she discovered more and more about him. The writing was not especially metaphorical or beautiful - very straightforward. But an interesting read. I recommend it, especially to those ...more
Oct 12, 2014 Lola rated it it was ok
Lucinda Franks father was distant, a person she didn't know. Since I enjoy
memoirs & people' relationships, I chose to read this book. Much of the book is about her search for her father's military records, his friends, & the girlfriend she learned about who he was seeing while married to Franks' mother.
His life was a secret to his wife & children. Consequently, their relationships were strained, unfamiliar, & leading to anger & frustration.
If you enjoy reading about life duri
Feb 09, 2016 Shirley rated it it was amazing
It was hard to put the book down. My mother was bipolar and my father a stoic. As I read the first part of the book, I felt drawn into the family dynamic in a very real way. And as the story unfolded, it had me reflecting on my own father's service and how it took him 40 years after WWII to begin talking about it and his experiences.

Beautifully written, painfully honest, and endearing in its telling, this is a tale that will stay with you. And it's a tale of the greatest generation from a whole
Nov 17, 2008 Carrie rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Memoir fans
Recommended to Carrie by: Pat Kelley
3.5 rating.
The author is the first woman to win a Pulitzer prize for national reporting~ and her investigative skills are used well as she digs through war records and her father's fading memory to uncover his secret military work as a spy in WWII.

Like many people of "the greatest generation" Frank's father is self-effacing and private about the horrors of war. It was more of a personal journey than military record of WWII. Well written but slow in parts.

Author: Lucinda Franks
Publisher: Hyperion
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My new book, which will be released in August, is called 'Timeless: Love, Morgenthau, and Me.' It's an intimate memoir about my husband, Robert Morgenthau, NY's former DA for 35 years, and me; the successes, trials, adventures, both traumatic and hilarious, of our marriage. It also gives inside information about my husband's most famous cases - The Central Park Jogger, Astor Elder Abuse, BCCI, Ty ...more
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