The Guillotine Choice by Michael J Malone
My 5* review. Also posted on Amazon UK & US and Goodreads.
If only there was a ten star choice available for rating books because this one would certainly deserve it. One of the best books I've read in a while. Completely and utterly absorbing and compelling.
This is a fictionalised account of the story of a young Algerian man, who in 1923, was given a long sentence to the French Penal colony on Devil's Island off French Guiana for a crime he didn't commit. Kaci Mahond Saoudi had to choose to identify the real culprit, his cousin, (not a spoiler, it's in the synopsis) and send him to the guillotine, or keep quiet and therefore condemn himself to a long sentence with doublage of hard labour in a penal colony. Throughout his sentence, according to this book, he manages to retain his dignity and self-worth and keep hold of his respect and empathy for his fellow men.
Devil's island is covered in dense jungle. More than 80,000 prisoners were sent to this notoriously brutal regime, with hardly any successful escapes.
Forget Papillon, this is so much better and this skilled writer Michael J Malone describes the conditions and treatment the convicts had to endure so vividly that it's possible to see it all in your minds eye.
He also builds up the picture of the plight of Algerians and what they had to suffer under French colonial rule. We are initially introduced to Kacid Mahond Sauodi as a young intelligent boy living within a close-knit family, who are at times barely surviving given the constraints they had to endure. Could just go on and on using up my whole range of superlatives. If made into a movie, would no doubt be an Oscar winning production given the right treatment.
Buy the book here