Sunday 28 December 2014

Heavenly's Child by Brenda Reid

It is the late 1960s and after her strict English boarding school, Angel is delighted to be back on Crete, the island she loves. She and her friend Chrissi are planning to spend the long summer days as they've always done before, hanging out together, playing pranks on their unsuspecting neighbours and generally running wild on the mountainside.
But when tragedy strikes at the heart of Angel's family, she and Chrissi resolve to run away together. For two girls on the brink of womanhood, the turmoil that is Greece at that time makes it a dangerous place to be. As Angel falls in love, tragedy strikes a second time...

Heavenly's Child by Brenda Reid was published by Orion in February 2013, and is the sequel to The House of Dust & Dreams.

As well as the huge piles of review books that arrive through my letter box, I also have three very large bookshelves filled with books to be read. I do try to read and review the books that are sent to me, but I often gaze at my shelves of books that I've bought myself and wonder when on earth I will get the time to read them all. So, over the break from work, I decided that I was going to pick at least three of these long-neglected books and read them. Heavenly's Child by Brenda Reid was my first choice. I read The House of Dust and Dreams by the same author in July 2011, and Heavenly's Child follows on from that story.

Set on the Greek island of Crete during the 1960s, Heavenly's Child centres around Angel, a young girl who was brought up by her English Diplomat parents on Crete. Angel is headstrong and wilful and has been asked to leave her English boarding school, she is delighted to be back in the small village that she considers to be her home. Although she's not actually Greek, she loves Crete, she loves her Greek neighbours and most of all, she loves Chrissi, her childhood friend.

Brenda Reid brings the island of Crete alive through her writing. I have visited Crete many times, and yes, it is a Greek island, part of Greece, but there is something unique about this large island, and it's people, and the author really catches the spirit of independence and resilience of the place and it's inhabitants.

The 1960s and 70s were hard times for the people of Crete. The Government was in turmoil, there were many underground resistance fighters, people felt let down, they wanted change, but they were scared. The whole of Greece was a dangerous and violent place to be, and for two young girls, just on the cusp of womanhood and determined to live life to the full, it was especially dangerous.

The story follows Angel and Chrissi as they leave their small village and travel unaccompanied. There is a love story at the heart of the book, but the real story is that of the Greek people and their struggle to overcome the legacies of the war.

Brenda Reid writes with warmth and authority. The sights and sounds of Greece are realistic and authentic, the story is well-paced and the characters are beautifully drawn.

Brenda Reid was an award-winning producer at the BBC before becoming Head of Drama at Anglia Television. 
She worked with, amongst others, Rose Tremain, Alan Bennett, Jilly Cooper, P.D. James, Fay Weldon and Lynda la Plante. 
She was also the executive producer of the popular series Ballykissangel. 
Brenda now divides her time between the Welsh borders, her children's houses in London and her village house in Crete.

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