Thursday 4 May 2023

An Island Promise by Patricia Wilson #AnIslandPromise @pmwilson_author @ZaffreBooks #Greece #BookReview


During the Nazi occupation of Athens, Daphne, a young Greek Jewish artist, finds her life suddenly under threat. She's in love with her Austrian art teacher, and together they must risk it all to escape his cousin, an SS officer. Pursued across Greece, their journey leads them to the island of Corfu.

In 2023 Liverpool, as Daphne's 100th birthday approaches, she knows time is running out to share her story. Daphne tells Flora, her granddaughter, of a valuable piece of art from her youth. A masterpiece which bought her freedom but cost her everything she held dear.

Will Flora discover more than she expects as she explores the island her family took refuge on?

An Island Promise by Patricia Wilson was published in paperback on 13 April 2023 by Zaffre. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

I am a real Greekophile. When I find a book that is set in Greece, I have to add it to my list, and if Corfu is mentioned then I'm even happier as Corfu is my favourite place on earth.  It's only over the last few years that I've come to learn about what happened in Greece during World War Two, and then the following years during the Greek Civil War. I've read quite a few novels that deal with this subject and it's a distressing and harrowing era to read about. 

Patricia Wilson's An Island Promise is a dual-time story (another favourite for me) that begins in Athens and ends on the island of Corfu. It is beautifully written and incredibly descriptive, with the addition of some art history that adds depth and makes it a little different from other novels based on the same issues. 

In the present day, Daphne is ninety-nine years old. She lives in a cottage in the ground of Mon Repos - a magnificent villa set in the forest, just south of Corfu town. Daphne has lived there for many years, she's of Jewish heritage and she and her late husband Aristotle, fled to safety there during the Nazi occupation of Greece.  Her grand-daughter Flora is visiting from England. Flora is a young widow, still grieving the loss of her husband and wondering what life has in store for her. Daphne has decided that it is time to tell Flora her story and is speaking about things that she's never said before. 

Whilst I really enjoyed the modern part of the novel, it is the story that is set in the war years that really captivated me. Daphne and Aristotle's romance was always going to be a problem. She, a young Jewish girl and he, an older man from Austria. Not only do her family object but the German troops will not tolerate it either. 

Daphne is an amazing character. A strong willed woman who is determined and loyal. She becomes involved with Princess Alice, Her Royal Highness Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark, a woman who has shunned riches and lavish lifestyles to care for the starving people of Athens. I loved the inclusion of a real life figure from history within the story. Princess Alice was the mother of Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II of Britain and her story becomes such a central part of the novel. 

The treatment of the Greeks by the German troops is laid bare in all of its horror and violence. The massacre of Kal√°vryta is detailed with such compassion, the reader getting to know many of the victims so they become real people and not just faceless numbers. 

Then there are the internal struggles for the Greek people. Who is working with the Germans? Who can be trusted? The bravery of some of the people is astounding and so very tense at times. 

This is an at times, utterly heart breaking novel, but also a story of hope, love and resilience. I was totally enthralled from the first page to the last. 

Patricia Wilson was born in Liverpool, has lived on Crete and is now settled on Rhodes. 

She was first inspired to write when she unearthed a rusted machine gun in her garden - one used in the events that unfolded during World War II on the island of Crete. 

The now elderly women involved in those events told Patricia their story, and her celebrated debut Island of Secrets (170k copies sold) was the result.

Twitter @pmwilson_author


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