This is the story of two women who become unlikely friends. Heavenly is married to a British Diplomat and is used to the luxury and fineries of British Embassies. Anthi is a local Cretan woman married to a man that her family chose for her, and she works and toils on the land to just survive. Together they face many challenges and the growing threat of War means that Crete become a vital place where the focus of inter fighting transfers to the enemy from outside Italy and Germany.
Brenda Reid captures the feel, the smell and the heat of Crete in the late thirties and how these women adjust to their ever changing lives. Heavenly stays on Crete in her husband’s family home whilst he goes back to Athens. Here she restores a rundown house, which is falling apart and covered in dust. At the same time her dreams are being rebuilt as she falls in love with a local builder, Christos and becomes a very different woman, a local some would say as she embraces village life and changes the way she views life and then her future changes forever.
Anthi has to struggle to survive, with two small children to protect and the memory of a third who never lived a full life, she not only has to battle with living from the land wondering about harvests and weather but also her husband who distrusts her and slowly begins to break down her dreams for her future and her children’s future until they are merely dust. Something then changes and Anthi finds she has the strength to almost fight the forthcoming war all by herself; she wants to play a part.
The war is portrayed with such care, that you can see that research has been carried out. This is not a book which is showing war in a major town on Crete, the ones we all know about from history books. This book shows it from a much lower level, the people in the mountains and the hills and the little villages that keep Crete a unique place. Even if you know very little about Crete’s role in the Second World War, this will show you a different side to it all.
If you want to escape to another time, another place and experience something through the eyes of the women out there then this is the book for you. I am sure it will be compared to Victoria Hislop’s The Island but take that with a pinch of salt, this book stands out on its own.
I enjoyed this book, as although reading can be seen as escapism it can also be seen as an education sometimes directly, sometimes subtly. This book was both. I have included the Hardback front cover (above) and also the paperback (below). They both encapsulate the love, mystery and dreams of the story and although you should not judge a book by its cover, sometimes it is the cover which sells us the story as much as the blurb on the back.